With jeans, a black T-shirt and a floppy hat resting on her head, she sat in the chair and received her second vaccination for COVID-19. It was Friday May 28, 2021. When she was finished, a group of National Guard members, doctors, nurses and dozens of volunteers gathered around and cheered. You see, this young woman was the final person to be vaccinated at the mass vaccination clinic located at the Deschutes County fairgrounds.
Immediately we began to tear down this amazing enterprise that had vaccinated more than 119,000 Central Oregonians. There was a sense of pride. A sense of accomplishment. And the realization that we could have done more.
When the clinic opened early this year, St. Charles and Volunteers in Medicine reached out to the community for help. We of the tri-county area raised our hands. More than 1,000 people enlisted. People from Jefferson County and Crook County joined Deschutes County volunteers to support this valiant effort.
We began vaccinating our neighbors aged 75 years and older. Many of these folks came with a daughter or son to help with the process. Women came dressed up and with proper hair, or as well as it can be during a pandemic. The men wore veteran’s caps from WWII and the Korean war. So many suspenders! We witnessed wheelchairs, walkers and canes maneuver from the vaccine building to the respite building. And if you did not experience this fun, your loss! Many folks asked if the bar was open, or if they could go dancing.
These first vaccines were for our most vulnerable, and our Greatest Generation did not disappoint. Eyes were filled with joy, hope and optimism; resolute to claim a more normal future.
Next we moved to the 65 and older crowd. This awesome group was focused on duty, with determination for success. They were committed to do everything possible and bring our country back to normal.
Men’s caps began to read Vietnam Veteran. Women sported workout clothes. It was evident that the choice of vaccination was correct. All were looking for a return to normal.
As we moved to younger and younger neighbors, the clothing changed. The vernacular changed. The attitudes changed. Parents brought their children and both embraced the solution. The desire to neutralize this virus remained front and center.
When the clinic began to operate, we were driving on snow and ice. February was dark and gray. And slowly, the gray began to transition to spring. A perfect metaphor. The vaccine was taking hold, and we could see the light.
To quote the Eagles, “We may lose or we may win… but we will never be here again”. The virus is here; it is real, and it is not going away. Our chances to win are so much better with the vaccination.
COVID-19 is agnostic. It does not care where you live or what you do. It does not care how you like your eggs or what language you speak. It simply attacks. It has killed almost 600,000 Americans since the pandemic began. And to bring it closer to home, as of Tuesday, the virus has taken the lives of 80 Deschutes County residents, 38 dead in Jefferson Country and 22 dead in Crook County.
Central Oregon has made great progress, but there is more to do. We all want normal. And normal is within reach. These vaccines work. They are safe. They are free.
For me, it is difficult to understand why so many people have decided the vaccination is not right for them. Please educate yourself. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist. It is a personal decision. It is your body. It is your choice. And understand that your choice impacts the entire population.
Roll up your sleeve.