COVID-19 Vaccines and OYA

Here’s what we know about when OYA staff or youth may be eligible for the vaccines. [Updated Jan. 21, 2021]

UPDATED Jan. 21, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccines Arrive at OYA

The Oregon Youth Authority has begun receiving our agency’s allotment of COVID-19 vaccines from the Oregon Health Authority. We are receiving the Moderna vaccine.

We plan to hold vaccine clinics at several OYA facilities to administer the vaccines to any eligible staff or contractors who sign up.

It is important that people sign up in advance — staff should be receiving information soon from their facility or field supervisor about how to sign up. This will help us make sure we get the correct number of doses to each clinic and that we don’t waste any.

Every vial of the Moderna vaccine has about 10 doses in it. After a vial is opened, the vaccine must be administered within several hours. We need to make sure we have enough people ready to be vaccinated when we open the vials.

Who is Eligible?

Anyone in the following groups is eligible to receive the vaccine at one of our facility clinics:

  • OYA staff and contractors who work in OYA facilities.
  • Teachers who work in OYA facilities.
  • Juvenile parole/probation officers and juvenile parole/probation assistants.
  • Other OYA staff who provide direct support to youth, such as foster care certifiers.

OYA youth are not eligible to receive the vaccine at this time. OYA leaders are talking with state health officials about when youth might be eligible.

Sign-Ups Are Required

Anyone who wishes to get the vaccine at one of our facility clinics will need to sign up in advance. This helps us know how many vaccines to have on site. The vaccine is a precious and scarce resource and we do not want to waste any.

Each facility will share more information about their sign-up process once they have a vaccination clinic scheduled.

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.

Eligible OYA Staff May Also 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.

OYA will still be receiving vaccines that we will be distributing directly to staff. However, eligible staff who do not want to wait should go ahead and get a vaccine in their community now.

Vaccination Clinics in Multnomah, Marion and Polk Counties

Multnomah County: A mass vaccination site is now open at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. Learn more on the Kaiser Permanente vaccine website.

Marion and Polk counties: Salem Health is offering ongoing vaccination clinics in Salem and Dallas for anyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine.

You can find the schedule and other information on the Salem Health COVID-19 vaccine website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Eligible to Receive the Vaccine?

The following groups are part of group 1a and 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.

Who is Not Included in OYA’s First Round of Vaccines?

  • Youth under OYA supervision, in facilities or in the community.
  • OYA staff who do not have direct contact with youth. This would include most Central Office staff.

We do not know yet when these groups will be eligible to receive the vaccine. We will let everyone know more when we have more information.

When Will OYA Youth Be Eligible to Receive the Vaccine?

We don’t know yet, but it will probably be a while. Right now, there are not enough vaccines to give to everyone. We don’t know how long it will be before there are enough vaccines to cover those who have first priority (health care workers in hospitals and elderly people living in long-term care facilities).

However, we do know that a youth’s eligibility will depend on their age and the type of vaccine we receive:

  • Each vaccine is recommended for a different age group. We do not know yet what age group the vaccines we receive will be appropriate for.
  • None of the vaccines are recommended for children younger than 16.

Why Are OYA Staff Eligible Before Youth?

Public health officials, not OYA, make the decision about who gets the vaccine and when. However, here’s why OHA decided staff should get the vaccine before youth:

  • Youth are not in a “high risk” category that would be included in the first round of vaccines. They are not elderly, and they are not healthcare workers.
  • Staff in our facilities are at a higher risk of getting the virus because they live out in the community and they have to work at our facilities in person, versus working from home. Most youth in OYA facilities are not out in the community at all right now. Even youth at camp who are on work crews are only briefly in the community for work, and then they come back to the facility.
  • Fewer than 20 youth in OYA facilities have tested positive since the pandemic began. We’ve been doing a good job keeping the virus from spreading to youth.

How Will OYA Staff and Youth Get the Shots?

OYA staff who are eligible would be able to receive the vaccine from OYA’s facility health clinics. They also can participate in local vaccination clinics in their communities.

Youth living in OYA youth correctional or transitional facilities will be able to get a shot at the health clinic in their facility. We do not know yet how OYA youth living in the community would receive it, but it might be through a doctor’s office or pharmacy. We expect that youth will need two shots that happen several weeks apart.

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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