From Warm Springs to Bend, medical professionals are ramping up COVID-19 vaccinations. In Central Oregon, the Department of Veterans Affairs asked for special approval to fly 144 doses of the vaccine from Portland to Redmond to be issued on Friday. Mosaic Medical workers left their clinic to vaccinate residents and workers at the Bethlehem Inn. And the three Central Oregon counties are banding together to streamline sign-ups for new vaccines coming in weekly.
These are just a few of the steps health officials are trying to get the vaccines out to Central Oregon residents. According to the Oregon Health Authority’s dashboard, 47,523 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Deschutes County. Jefferson County has administered 4,158 doses, according the data. And Crook County has administered 3,480 doses.
Louie Pitt, the director of Government Affairs & Planning for Warm Springs, said 566 people have been fully vaccinated on the Warm Springs Reservation as of Thursday. That’s about 18% of people on the reservation that are eligible for the shot, said Pitt.
Those numbers were expected to get a boost on Friday when the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs hosted a vaccination clinic with 510 doses available. The clinic was available to anyone over 18 years old, said Pitt.
Pitt said he has already received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“There was some hesitancy with the first shot, but then, people kept dying off around here and around the nation,” said Pitt. “So I thought I had better get my shot.”
At the Bethlehem Inn homeless shelter in Bend, Executive Director Gwenn Wysling was grateful to the Mosaic Medical staff for bringing the vaccine to the shelter for residents and workers and other organizations in the community could convene.
“This is keeping residents safe and healthy,” Wysling said. “We have to house less residents than we can to keep people healthy. It’s been hard because we want to help as many people as possible.”
About 140 vaccinations were issued on Friday. The goal is to keep these congregant living facilities healthy, and Mosaic’s mission is to provide health care to shelter residents, said Elaine Knobbs-Seasholtz, Mosaic Medical director of strategy and development.
“We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t seen much COVID-19 in these facilities,” Knobbs-Seasholtz said. “It makes sense to go where the population is. We want to make sure that the people will get their second doses.”
The two vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration require two doses, about a month apart, to provide complete protection against the virus. The vaccine is fully effective about two weeks after the second dose.
Last week’s bad weather meant that the VA Portland office needed to find an alternative way to getting the vaccines to Central Oregon in a timely fashion.
On Friday, a plane arrived and doses were administered at the VA’s Bend clinic, said Daniel Herrigstad, VA public information officer.
“We’ve been using the Pfizer vaccine; there have been challenges because of the drive,” Herrigstad said. “It’s a question of equity, and it’s challenging for rural veterans to get to a clinic. We’re making plans to expand our clinics.”
The clinic on Friday was open to veterans age 75 and older, he said. Spouses are not eligible at this time, and neither are those not registered by the VA, Herrigstad said. To register for the vaccine go to www.portland.va.gov.
Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties will change the way they sign up eligible people for COVID-19 vaccinations. Starting Friday, the county will announce how many vaccines it will receive and on Saturdays, anyone in that eligible group can sign up for an appointment at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center, said Morgan Emerson, Deschutes County Health Services spokeswoman.
Appointments will close when all the spots are taken, she said. Anyone interested should fill out the online vaccine interest form at vaccines.deschutes.org. Additional information is available in Spanish at the El Condado de Deschutes Facebook page.
The county does not have a waiting list for anyone willing to fill in a vacant appointment, she said.