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AARP Oregon Letter to Gov. Brown on Vaccine Boosters for Oregonians

Puerto Rico Vaccine 1

August 25, 2021

The Honorable Kate Brown
900 Court Street NE, Suite 254
Salem, OR 97301-4047

Dear Governor Brown:

On behalf of over 505,000 AARP members in Oregon and all 50-plus Oregonians, I am writing today about the urgent need to plan now in anticipation of booster vaccinations to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge you to develop a comprehensive roll-out plan that communicates clear information to the public and prioritizes older Americans, especially those who are homebound or living in congregate settings as well as underserved residents including the BIPOC communities and rural Oregonians. Additionally, we urge you to share the outreach plan with key stakeholders who can help amplify your messaging.

During the initial vaccine rollout, many older Oregonians were not prioritized at first, but once they were, they had difficulty accessing or navigating the online system, called into poorly staffed hotlines, and were left confused, frustrated and angry. Still others who were homebound were left for weeks without an option to get vaccinated. These problems cannot be repeated. Oregon must stay vigilant as the coronavirus landscape continues to shift and be ready to take action to protect our most vulnerable residents.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 95 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among people 50 and older. The data clearly show that the older someone is, the greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19. AARP Oregon urges you to prioritize booster rollouts based on who is most at risk of significant illness and death. This must include prioritizing people 50 and older, especially those living in congregate settings.

As was the case during the initial rollout of the vaccines, we anticipate confusion among the public on where and how to get a booster shot, and difficulty signing up for appointments. AARP heard from hundreds of people who were extremely frustrated by the lack of clear information and difficulty accessing vaccine appointments. We recommend that a robust public education campaign start as soon as possible that does not rely on social media primarily. It is imperative to provide clear, accurate information via channels that people can access even without the internet.

For those individuals most at risk, such as people living in nursing homes or other congregate facilities, homebound individuals, and other hard-to-reach populations, we urge the state to develop specific plans to ensure boosters are delivered quickly and effectively. The CDC has provided guidance1 on vaccinating homebound individuals and their caregivers, and federal funding may be available from FEMA and the American Rescue Plan Act to facilitate vaccinations for homebound individuals. This funding could be used to establish or improve systems to safely transport homebound people to vaccination sites or to bring the vaccine, including boosters, to the person’s home.

Finally, we strongly urge you to ensure that the state’s vaccination-related data, including booster shots, are publicly available, easily accessible, and include enough granularity to allow for the identification of populations that are still struggling to access COVID-19 vaccines. The availability of such data will help ensure that no population is overlooked.

By working together, we can ensure that any Oregonian who wants to be vaccinated has that opportunity. As you update your outreach plans, and as more information is available about how people can sign up for booster vaccines, you can count on AARP Oregon to share that information broadly. Please contact me at 503-784-1789 if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Bandana Shrestha State Director AARP Oregon
cc: Pat Allen, Director, Oregon Health Authority

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/homebound-persons.html

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