For Mark Constantine, getting his COVID-19 vaccination turned out to be simpler than he had expected.
“Easy,” he said following his March 14 appointment at Tigard’s Rise Church. “The (pharmacist) was great and they took good care of me.”
Constantine lives in Raleigh Hills and, unlike many people, said he had no trouble booking his online appointment through Safeway-Albertson’s, which worked in partnership with Rise Church to host a vaccination clinic at the church. There, pharmacists from the grocery chain administered around 600 doses per day and just over 3,000 per week during March, as the vaccination effort ramps up around Oregon and the rest of the country.
Increasingly, supplies of vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are reaching the state. They are then being directed by county health departments toward hundreds of different sites. These range from mass vaccination clinics at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport to clinics at senior centers or community organizations like St. Anthony’s Church or the Muslim Educational Trust.
“I would say things are going much better than they were at the beginning,” said Mary Sawyers, a spokesperson for the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. “There is still somewhat of a limited supply, but hopefully we’ll see that changing.”
A new mass vaccination site run by Oregon Health and Science University clinic also opened at Hillsboro Stadium in early March, while smaller clinics continue to be held by Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R) at the Nike Campus in Beaverton, as well as at the Clackamas Community College annex in Wilsonville and the Yamhill County Fairgrounds in Newberg.
Appointments for these sites are being coordinated through county health departments, Sawyers said. Appointments at local pharmacy chains such as Walmart, Walgreen’s, BiMart, Costco and RiteAid are also available through the Washington County website.
At Rise Church, Parish Nurse Anne Wallace coordinated the vaccination effort, which involved over 100 local volunteers helping people receive the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. She said the 3,000 slots each week filled up within hours of the sign-up link being posted online.
“It fills up quick because people get the word, and that’s it,” Wallace said. “The other thing we had difficulty with is people thought they could show up and get a vaccine. And we do have extras sometimes, but we are definitely going by the eligibility guidelines.”
Vaccinations at Rise Church ran through March 29. But Wallace said she was hopeful they would be able to continue into April, when new groups of Oregonians will be eligible. The Oregon Health Authority has said all Oregonians over 16 will be eligible by May 1.
Across Washington County, Sawyers said, there have been clinics held at around 30 different sites, the majority of which have not been made public because they are intended to serve specific groups of vulnerable people.
When there are extra appointments available, these types of clinics are then made public and they fill up quickly. This was the case at Summerfield Clubhouse, which filled all appointments for four clinics on March 23 and 30 and April 6 and 13 after opening slots to King City Highlands and other facilities and then the general public.
“It started with just our residents, then our pharmacist asked that we open it up to other senior communities,” Cari Lindsey, an administrator with the Summerfield Civic Association, said at the March 23 session. “The goal is to vaccinate the community and that’s what’s happening. Our first two here this morning were just about in tears, they were so overjoyed to get this done.”
Finding appointments has been difficult for many eligible Oregonians. That was reflected in the experiences of many who attended the Summerfield Clubhouse clinic.
“I don’t mind the internet so much, but early on when we had so very few shots available, and you have half a million people trying to get those shots, it makes it just about impossible,” said Rex Morris, who lives in Beaverton just north of Tigard city limits. “Somehow if we would have had more vaccines early it would have been easier. I’m glad that it’s over now, it’s such a big deal, and when I get the second one, I’ll feel a whole lot better.”
For Jayne Benjamin, who lives with her husband in the Summerfield neighborhood, however, that was not the case.
“We weren’t trying to get an appointment, this sort of just came to us,” she said just after getting her shot. “We live here, we got an email and they said we’re going to be doing this and to sign up. It just sort of fell into our laps.”
To find out more about eligibility or to sign up for vaccination, visit: co.washington.or.us/HHS/CommunicableDiseases/COVID-19/vaccine.cfm or call 1-833-907-3520.