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Oregon Grocery and Restaurant Workers Will Be Eligible for the COVID-19 Vaccine No Later Than April 19

The state is accelerating its vaccine timeline while maintaining its prioritization of frontline workers

A woman with braids, a mask, and a denim apron brings two paper bags to a small white table in the door of Toki. A bottle of hand sanitizer sits on the table.
Emma Richardson brings a takeout order to the pickup window at new downtown restaurant Toki. Workers like Richardson will be eligible for the vaccine on an accelerated timeline.
Molly J. Smith / EPDX
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state will accelerate its vaccine timeline to accommodate a directive from President Joe Biden to make vaccines available to all Americans by May 1. Under the new timeline, “frontline workers,” which includes restaurant and grocery workers, will be able to receive vaccinations by April 19 at the latest. That timeline, however, depends on the state receiving the allocated vaccines promised by the federal government, a promise that had been broken in previous months.

In December, the federal government short-changed the state in terms of vaccine allotment, and since then, the state has been wary to promise too optimistic a vaccine timeline, acknowledging that any timeline is reliant on the number of actual vaccine doses the state receives. Back in February, the state announced its initial timeline for frontline worker vaccinations: Oregon grocery and food service workers would have been eligible for the first round of vaccinations by May 1, allowing the rest of the general public to receive their first doses later in the month. Fortunately, things have sped up both for frontline workers and the general public: According to Pat Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, the vaccine distribution timeline introduced today would allow for 80 or 90 percent of eligible frontline workers to receive their vaccines before May 1, when all Oregonians will be eligible.

However, Oregonians 45 and older with underlying conditions will be eligible March 29, ahead of the larger population of grocery and restaurant workers. Allen attributed that choice to the potential risk of hospitalization and death in the older population, as well as the fact people of color are overrepresented within the population of Oregonians 45 and older with underlying conditions. “Let me be very very clear, we have continued to prioritize equity in our vaccine distribution,” Brown says.

Other Oregonians within the food industry will be able to receive that vaccine before April 19: Some migrant farmworkers will be eligible by March 22, for instance, followed by the larger population of agricultural workers and food processing workers on March 29. For more information about vaccine eligibility and how to schedule an appointment, visit the state website.

COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon [Official]
Restaurant and Bar Workers Finally Have an Approximate Vaccination Date [EPDX]
Oregon to Receive Fewer Vaccines Than Expected Next Week [USN]