COVID-19 Vaccines and OYA

The latest information on vaccines for OYA staff and youth. [Updated March 2, 2021]

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UPDATED Mar. 2, 2021

Update on Vaccines for Youth

OYA received Moderna vaccines for youth in close custody on Feb. 22. We began vaccinating eligible youth on Friday, Feb. 26. We are continuing to vaccinate youth this week at all facilities except Camp Riverbend, where youth will get their vaccines from local health providers.

Moderna’s vaccine is only approved for people age 18 and older, so we will only be able to administer it to youth in our correctional and transitional facilities who are 18 and older.

We are working with OHA on a plan to provide Pfizer vaccines to youth ages 16 and 17. These vaccines will likely be administered by external health providers who will come into our facilities. In some cases, youth may be transported to a community clinic.

For OYA youth ages 16 and older in residential programs, we are working out plans with OHA to offer them the vaccine in the community.

As a reminder, the vaccine is not mandatory. Youth can choose whether to take it.

We have prepared information geared toward our youth and their families to help them make an informed decision. This includes information specifically for Latino, Black and Native American youth and their families. You can find all this information on our blog:  If you work with our youth or families, please share this link with them.

OYA Vaccinates 275 Eligible Workers

OYA’s Health Services team administered 275 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine during the final week of February. Our staff vaccination clinics are now complete.

The vaccines went to people who were eligible as part of group 1a, including facility staff, teachers, contractors, other OYA staff whose work takes them inside our facilities, and people who work with OYA youth in contracted residential programs.

A big thank-you goes out to the OYA nurses and others who worked many hours to make these vaccination clinics happen. Their dedication provides an extra layer of safety for our team and is directly helping to fight the pandemic.

Eligible OYA Staff May Still Get Vaccines in their Communities

All people who are part of category 1a, which includes those who work in correctional settings, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (See the FAQ below for more details on who is eligible.)

Oregon Health Authority has advised us that OYA staff who are eligible should feel free to go ahead and get their vaccine in their community, if it is being offered.

Vaccines Must Be Obtained on Personal Time

If you want to get the vaccine, it must be done on your personal time. If you need to miss work due to recovering from receiving the vaccine, you will need to use your accrued leave. However, we will be working hard to try to offer the vaccine at times that align with staff work schedules.

Vaccines Are Not Required, But We Recommend Them

We strongly encourage everyone to take the vaccine when offered, for your safety and for the safety of your families, co-workers, and the youth and families we serve. However, we are not requiring staff to get the vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Eligible to Receive the Vaccine?

The following groups are eligible now to receive the vaccine, according to Oregon Health Authority (OHA):

  • All OYA staff and contractors who work in OYA facilities, including teachers and healthcare providers.
  • All staff who care for OYA youth in contracted residential programs in the community.
  • OYA staff who provide direct support to youth but who don’t work full-time in a facility, such as juvenile parole/probation officers and foster care certifiers.
  • Anyone age 65 or older.
  • For up-to-date information on who’s eligible, see the Oregon Health Authority website here.

What if a Youth Doesn’t Want the Vaccine, or if Their Parent Doesn’t Want Them to Get It?

Youth are not required to have the vaccine at this time. If youth do not wish to receive the vaccine, all they need to do is refuse the shot when it’s offered.

However, even though the vaccine is not required, it’s important to get the vaccine to prevent getting sick with the virus. Research about these vaccines showed that they are effective at least 95% of the time.

For youth age 15 or older, the decision will likely be up to the youth. Oregon law says people age 15 and older can consent to medical procedures without parental consent, which means they could choose whether to get the vaccine. None of the vaccines at this time are recommended for children younger than 16. We will only offer the vaccines to youth who are eligible.

We recognize that some families will want a say in the youth’s decision. We strongly encourage families to talk with their youth about whether to get vaccinated. If families are concerned about the vaccine, we recommend they reach out to their youth to discuss their preferences.

If Youth Get the Vaccine, Do They Still Need to Wear a Mask?

Yes, for now. Getting the vaccine only protects them from getting COVID-19. The people who researched the vaccines still are not sure whether vaccinated people can spread the virus.

Until they know more, it’s important that youth still wear a face covering, wash their hands frequently, and stay distant from others. It could take many months before it’s safe to stop these safety precautions.

More Information From The New York Times

Why can’t everyone get the vaccine now?

There aren’t enough doses for everyone, so initially the vaccine will be rationed for those who need it most. It will take time to produce and distribute the vaccine, and then schedule two vaccinations per person, three to four weeks apart. As more vaccines get approved, things will speed up.

How do I know it’s safe?

Each company’s application to the F.D.A. (Food and Drug Administration) includes two months of follow-up safety data from Phase 3 of clinical trials conducted by universities and other independent bodies. In that phase,
tens of thousands of volunteers got a vaccine and waited to see if they became infected, compared with others who received a placebo (a harmless shot that doesn’t do anything). By September, Pfizer’s trial had 44,000
participants; no serious safety concerns have been reported.

I had COVID-19 already. Do I need the vaccine?

It’s safe, and probably even a good idea, for anyone who has had COVID to get the vaccine at some point, experts said. Although people who have contracted the virus do have immunity, it is too soon to know how long it lasts. So for now, it makes sense for them to get the shot.

Why not take my chances with COVID-19 rather than get a vaccine?

COVID-19 is by far the more dangerous option, even if you are young and at low risk. Younger people can become severely ill, too. In a study of more than 3,000 people ages 18 to 34 who were hospitalized for COVID, 20% required intensive care and 3% died. And as many as one in three people who recover from COVID have chronic complaints, including exhaustion, a racing heart and worse for months afterward. COVID vaccines, in contrast, carry little known risk.

These facts and more can be found on The New York Times’ website.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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