Pamplin Media Group – Our Opinion: Kate Brown’s photo op subtracts a local shot

Showing the public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines is good. Shortening the line to get vaccinated in Scappoose is not like that.

The rest of Oregon seems to be paying little attention to what’s going on in Columbia County. While Scappoose is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Portland, it sometimes feels like a whole world north of Cornelius Pass Road.

But not last Saturday when Governor Kate Brown made a surprise trip to the OHSU Primary Care Clinic in Scappoose to get her COVID-19 vaccination.

First of all, we’re excited to have the governor or other civil servant or candidate for office come to Columbia County. It is good for them to be reminded that Vancouver, Washington is not all that is north of Portland.

Second, and more in a nutshell, what does the governor think she’s doing dragging her over here from Mahonia Hall to get a shot that was likely in the arm of a senior, school worker, or health professional in the Scappoose / St. Helens area ?

Read our March 6, 2021 report on Governor Kate Brown’s vaccine appointment in Scappoose.

Brown, 60, does not work in education or healthcare, which has priority access to COVID-19 vaccines, unless you count signing the Student Success Act or placing executive orders on public health.

On the schedule drawn up by the Oregon Health Authority in collaboration with the Governor’s Office, she is unable to qualify for a vaccination for five years based on her age.

And despite howls from critics accusing Oregonians of “prisoners in our own homes” over the past year, Brown is not considered a correctional officer (nor an adult in custody as a judge ruled last month should vaccinated in advance of the general population).

Brown is also not a resident of Columbia County, of course. She and her husband live in the governor’s official residence in Salem, three counties from here.

The governor said she wanted to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in full view from our news photographer and a television crew to help increase public confidence in the safety of the vaccine. As a minority of Americans continue to insist that they do not want to be vaccinated against the highly contagious, potentially fatal disease that virtually brought our county, state, country, and world to a standstill in the past year that Johnson & In particular the Johnson vaccine was made malicious.

Taking Brown at his word is an admirable goal. Vaccines are very effective protection for individuals, but in order for them to truly defeat a contagious disease, we rely on herd immunity – where enough people have enough effective protection against the virus to prevent it from circulating in the population and from extinction . If and when we achieve herd immunity, we can stop masking ourselves, social distancing ourselves, and get back to life as it existed without the virus.

Overall, studies suggest that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is slightly less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at preventing infection. However, it is just as effective in preventing serious illness and complications that can lead to hospitalization and death. In studies, no patient who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was hospitalized or died with this virus, which has now claimed well over half a million Americans.

The public should be able to rely on the COVID-19 vaccines – all three that have been approved by federal regulators. Brown and other leaders should stand up and say, “Yes, these vaccines are safe and effective, and you should get your vaccine as soon as possible.”

The problem is, “as soon as you can” seems to mean something different when you are the governor of Oregon than when you are just a common Oregon resident.

For more than a year, Oregonians have been going to jobs where they have regular exposure to the public, work closely with fellow employees, or both, with the constant awareness that anyone could knowingly or unknowingly be infected with the coronavirus and that they would be sick or pass the virus on to someone else, possibly just by breathing the same air as them.

For more than a year, older adults and adults with pre-existing medical conditions have lived with fear of COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,300 Oregonians and hospitalized thousands more. In numbers, these adults are far more likely than younger, healthier people to develop complications and are far more likely to die as a result.

For more than a year, Oregonians have been busy with executive orders from Brown’s desk to “slow the spread,” “flatten the curve,” and “stay home, save lives.” These orders received a lot of murmur, but they were generally supported by the public, and by and large, they had our support as well. If you read regularly, you will have read many times on these pages that these instructions are well meant, that health and safety guidelines are important, and that we must all be patient and understanding as this crisis continues course. Even so, they have caused widespread disruption, keeping children out of school for nearly a calendar year, forcing many businesses to close – often temporarily, sometimes permanently – and leaving tens of thousands of Oregonians unemployed or underemployed.

Read our February 17, 2021 editorial on the importance of patience and kindness in dealing with the ongoing pandemic.

So it’s understandable how we look at the vaccines: as manna from heaven. These recordings will save the lives of the Oregonians and let us all get on with ours. Every needle in every arm is a victory. It means relief and promotes freedom. Will any of us ever forget the moment when we were first vaccinated against COVID-19?

Brown’s office says she went to Scappoose for her vaccination to highlight the work of a nationally recognized rural health clinic. That’s a wonderful thought. But why does this clinic need to provide a vaccine to a resident outside the county for their work to be highlighted?

If Brown or the Oregon Health Authority wanted to trumpet the services of the OHSU Primary Care Clinic in Scappoose, they could certainly have done it with an award or perhaps a video message. Instead of focusing the lens on the governor’s upper arm, they could have focused on the people who live in Columbia County and are cared for by their local clinic or the hardworking health professionals who care for them.

We don’t want to sound unkind. We would love if the Governor visited Scappoose to see the innovative work teachers and school administrators have done to make their classrooms safe for young learners who, as a result of these efforts, go to school weeks before other children in the Portland area could return. We would be encouraged to see the governor’s meeting with struggling business owners and unemployed residents in St. Helens, where COVID-19 is just the latest in a long line of setbacks for the local economy.

Columbia County is a real place with real people and real issues that heads of state like Brown need to take seriously. Among these real people, thousands are still patiently waiting for their COVID-19 vaccine. These real problems include the health and safety restrictions that the virus has made but still hit wage earners and entrepreneurs hard.

We hope the people here will be vaccinated as soon as possible and we hope that they will take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when offered. But we wish Kate Brown had been willing to wait at least a little longer for hers – and left that little vial for a Columbia County resident who took it a little longer.

You count on us to stay tuned, and we depend on you to fund our efforts. High quality local journalism costs time and money. Please support us in protecting the future of community journalism.