Hospital capacity, approval of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine and hMPXV response highlights of OHA media event

Hospitals across Oregon are facing capacity and staffing issues related to high COVID-19 spread and other reasons, according to the state’s top health officer.

“Hospitals are stressed across the state due to patients with COVID-19 as well as other diseases, in conjunction with impacts on the workforce from COVID-19,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D. MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist, during Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) monthly COVID-19 media availability Wednesday.

Sidelinger said OHA will continue to work closely with health systems to ensure adequate care for patients. He encouraged residents to help reduce the strain on hospitals by getting vaccinated, and staying up to date on their boosters. “We also want to remind older residents and adults at high risk who do get COVID-19 that the highly effective treatment called Paxlovid is available as a pill,” he said.

Sidelinger encouraged residents to consider simple measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure hospitals retain their capacity to care for their most critical patients. This includes wearing well-fighting masks in indoor spaces.

Sidelinger said Oregon continues to have a high level of community spread tied to the predominance of the BA.5 subvariant.

Sidelinger reported the number of hospitalized COVID-19-positive patients, 424 as of July 20, fell below projections in the latest model that predicted hospitalizations would peak at 479 COVID-positive patients in mid-July.

Sidelinger also highlighted news that the Novavax two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for adults was endorsed Tuesday for Emergency Authorization Use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The workgroup represents Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada.

The Novavax vaccine uses a proven technology to stimulate the human immune system, which has been used for decades for vaccines for shingles, hepatitis B and the flu. Sidelinger said the Novavax vaccine will be available for people not yet vaccinated and will likely arrive in Oregon and be available in the next few weeks.

Sidelinger also provided an update on hMPXV in Oregon, noting 32 presumptive and confirmed cases of hMPXV in four counties — Lane, Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas — all among men.

“OHA is working with its federal partners to secure doses of the hMPXV vaccine, which have remained in short supply,” said Sidelinger. “As more vaccine becomes available, OHA will work with its local public health, Tribal, community and health care partners to encourage vaccination among those most at risk, and promote vaccine clinics, which are expected to begin over the next week.”

Here are the talking points from today’s media availability. You can also watch it here.