PORTLAND, Ore. — According to newly released data from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), 70% of Oregon's licensed health care workers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but vaccination rates vary widely across different medical professions.
The data, released by OHA earlier this week, provides the most comprehensive look at vaccination rates among Oregon's health care workers since the pandemic began.
In Oregon, 94% of dentists have at least one shot, which is the highest rate of any medical license type. Medical doctors are also among the most vaccinated health care workers, with 87% of the state's nearly 12,000 licensed doctors having received a shot.
The health care professions with the lowest vaccination rates include: 45% of chiropractic assistants, 50% of chiropractors, 56% of emergency medical responders and 57% of certified nursing assistants.
In Oregon, hospitals cannot legally require employees to get a vaccine, according to the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS).
But OAHHS has called for that law to change.
"There is a current state law that prohibits hospitals and other healthcare providers from mandating vaccines. We think that's not appropriate in a pandemic and it's time to have the conversation about changing it," said OAHHS President and CEO Becky Hultberg.
Hultberg said OAHHS is not advocating for a statewide vaccine mandate for health care workers, but thinks hospitals should be able to make the decision that's best for them and their local workforce needs.
OAHHS said hospitals are the only employers in the state that do not have the option for local decision making regarding vaccination requirements.
The OHA data shows vaccination rates among health care workers also vary widely depending on age and geographic location.
Only 55% of Oregon's licensed health care workers between ages 20-24 have been vaccinated, whereas more than 75% of health care workers over 60 have been.
In the metro area, Washington County has the highest vaccination rate among health care workers, with 81% of those working in the county having received at least one dose.
In Eastern Oregon, the rate is much lower. Only 43% of all licensed health care workers employed in Harney County have received at least one dose.
The OHA's chief medical officer, Dr. Dana Hargunani, said they want all health care workers to get the vaccine.
"We want everybody to have an informed decision about the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, especially health care workers. And we continue to look for ways to partner with the health care workforce to increase these rates," said Hargunani.
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