PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s coronavirus vaccine equity group is meeting in secret Thursday after a different closed-door session in which some members questioned how health officials will put the group’s recommendations into practice.
State health officials created the Vaccine Advisory Committee to help decide who should be inoculated next against the coronavirus after health care workers, senior care residents and workers, teachers and seniors.
The group’s meetings were public until this week, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. State officials say the committee finished its official work last Thursday, sending recommendations to the Oregon Health Authority, and the latest sessions are not subject to public meetings law.
State officials said Tuesday’s meeting would be to “discuss implementation issues” but later changed the agenda to list only “debrief and evaluation.” The group on Tuesday discussed vaccine access, information access and the need to combat disinformation, according to a summary provided by the Oregon Health Authority.
The summary also listed a few bigger-picture questions, such as, “How will OHA demonstrate to community how racial equity is guiding vaccine distribution?”
Thursday’s meeting will be an “unofficial wrap-up,” said Erica Heartquist, a health authority spokeswoman. The health authority said it will not record the meeting, take minutes or put together a transcript.
Oregon created the advisory committee with a stated purpose to start deconstructing the kind of “structural racism” that created the glaring disparities in coronavirus infection rates between whites and people of color.
The committee held eight meetings in January that were all public.
The committee said it wanted communities of Black, Indigenous and people of color to be vaccinated next. But in the group’s final decision-making meeting, state officials said that would be impossible for legal reasons.
As a result, the group’s final recommendations only included a general request that health agencies commit to racial and ethnic equity. The group also asked that local health agencies “identify, engage and serve people who our health care system has often failed.”