PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – Gov. Kate Brown is defending her decision to reject federal guidelines and prioritize teachers for the COVID-19 vaccine before the elderly.

She says if all of Oregon’s seniors were vaccinated first teachers would likely not be vaccinated before the school year and many students would not return to in-person learning.

In addition, during a Friday news conference, officials from the Oregon Health Authority presented a new vaccination timeline that delays the eligibility for seniors 65 to 69 years old to be vaccinated until March 7 and those 70 to 74 pushed back to Feb. 28.

Here’s more from the Governor’s Office:

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today to update Oregonians on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in Oregon, particularly as they relate to seniors and educators. The Governor was joined by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Public Health Director Rachael Banks, OHA Chief Financial Officer Dave Baden, Kaiser Permanente Northwest Chief Operating Officer Wendy Watson, 2021 Oregon Teacher of the Year Nicole Butler-Hooton (Irving Elementary), Regional Teacher of the Year Mayra Pelayo (Aiken Elementary), and South Medford High School Student—and member of the Governor’s Healthy Schools Reopening Council— Yosalin Arenas Alvarez.

“I have prioritized protecting seniors since day one of this response and, as a result, Oregon is faring better than nearly every other state in the nation in protecting vulnerable seniors,” said Governor Brown. “Oregon has the second lowest COVID-19 infection rate among seniors in the country, and the third lowest death rate among people 65 and older. Just this past week, we completed first dose vaccinations for all seniors living in nursing homes who wanted the vaccine.

“I first made the commitment at the end of last year to vaccinate Oregon’s educators and school staff, and I reaffirmed that commitment last week. Educators can be vaccinated quickly, district by district. This choice represents a rapid action that will have an outsized impact on Oregon kids. If we were to vaccinate every Oregon senior first, the harsh reality is that many of our educators would not get vaccinated this school year—and Oregon kids would continue to suffer.

“If we were to reverse that, and prioritize the needs of Oregon kids, it puts a two-week delay on beginning vaccinations for seniors who live independently. I know so many Oregon grandparents are happy to hold out just two more weeks in an effort to help get their grandchildren back into the classroom as quickly and safely as possible.

“I also know there are many Oregonians who are eager to get the vaccine. The harsh reality is we are managing a scarce resource right now. Time and time again this pandemic has forced difficult choices. And even in tough times, I continue to be inspired by the extraordinary ways Oregonians lift one another up and work together.”

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