Sen. Lynda Wilson seeks answers on Oregon residents’ access to vaccinations in Washington


Gov. Jay Inslee said during Thursday visit to Clark County that he doesn’t see a problem, but Clark County lawmaker wants to make sure that’s the case

Sen. Lynda Wilson (Republican, 17th District) wants to make sure that scarce COVID-19 vaccinations being provided to Washington residents are not being inadvertently given to Oregon residents.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee toured the Clark County Fairgrounds, highlighting a new state program to get the vaccine into the arms of Washington residents. The federal government is buying and then distributing the vaccine to states. Each governor then controls the process and rules for how the vaccines will be administered. During his visit, Inslee highlighted the fact that Washington will receive 16 percent more vaccines over the next few weeks.

Yet for the past three days, Wilson has been crying “foul” after she learned that Oregonians have been coming across the Columbia River to receive vaccinations that were supposed to be given to Clark County residents.

“I’ve been on this rant for the last 48 hours,” Wilson said. “As soon as we saw a KOIN TV interview with a DOH representative basically saying … Oregon come on over … and following up with ‘we don’t want to hoard the vaccines,’ we realized what could happen.” 

Sen. Lynda Wilson wants vaccinations allocated to Washington state to be given to Washington citizens. File photo
Sen. Lynda Wilson wants vaccinations allocated to Washington state to be given to Washington citizens. File photo

On Tuesday, Lauren Jenks, the assistant secretary for the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) responded. “We’re not at this point encouraging people to go across the state line to get the vaccine but we’re also not really quibbling over those things,” Jenks said. “If you’re eligible in Washington and it was obviously easy for you to get here so we may as well vaccinate you as long as you have an appointment and meet our eligibility for criteria.”

Inslee downplayed the issue during his visit to Clark County.

“I think we’re gonna be just fine,” the governor said Thursday. “I’m confident that Oregonians are gonna stick in Oregon. They can root for the Ducks, and they get their vaccinations in Oregon. We will root for the Cougars and the Huskies, and we will get ours in Washington. 

“I don’t think this is going to be a big problem,” Inslee added. “We did send a message to our friends in Oregon that we want them to do their vaccination work in Oregon. I’m confident that that’s going to work. So, I really don’t think this is going to be a problem now that we’ve made clear what the policy is.”

According to Wilson, Oregon recently changed their vaccine priority list of who should receive them first. Brown now wants the teachers to get vaccinated before the vulnerable elderly. “Why wouldn’t those that have been locked down for months to protect their own health want to come to Washington for the vaccine,” she said.”Especially (if it’s) only a few miles north and especially if the DOH has essentially invited them.”  

The state of Washington is now vaccinating people in the first tier of Phase 1B. This means people 65 and older and people 50 and older who live in multigenerational housing are now eligible, along with those from Phase 1A. The groups who fall into the first tier of Phase 1B in Washington can’t yet get the vaccine in Oregon.

Wilson mentioned that states are allocated doses based on our population, which doesn’t include the Portland metro area. “The governor continues to complain about the lack of vaccines,” she said. “It is a decision by the DOH that is what’s creating the issue.” 

Wilson says she has been In constant contact with the DOH and the governor’s office. “They have changed their language, but it is entirely unsatisfactory to me,” she said Thursday evening. “They need to confirm their residency during the online application process BEFORE they show up to be inoculated.” 

She is waiting for a response from the governor’s office to her most recent email. 

Clark County Public Health shared a statement on social media from the DOH asking Oregon citizens to stop coming if you do not live or work in Washington. Graphic DOH
Clark County Public Health shared a statement on social media from the DOH asking Oregon citizens to stop coming if you do not live or work in Washington. Graphic DOH

On Thursday the DOH issued the following statement on social media.

“Oregon and Washington are taking different approaches to vaccine prioritization, but agree on one thing: people need to get vaccinated in the state where they live and work. 

“The federal government allocates vaccine doses to states based on population size, and right now, neither state has enough for everyone who needs one. We only have vaccine for those living or working in Washington. 

“We are relying on the honor system to get us through these phases in an equitable way, and that means trusting that people will NOT cross state lines into Washington for the purpose of getting vaccinated. 

“Please stop coming if you do not live or work in Washington.  We do not have vaccine for you.”

It appears there still is no good system in place to actually prevent Oregonians from making an appointment. The DOH has promised to look into those concerns further in terms of how the scheduling system works.

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