COVID-19 Vaccination Effort Ramps Up in Washington County

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Dan Livengood, a Firefighter/Paramedic with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine during a recent clinic run by the fire district. (CHRIS HAMILTON/TVF&R)

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign looks different in every city in Oregon right now. 

Some cities, like Tigard and Beaverton, have publicly available clinics open to eligible persons, while others, like Tualatin, have been the site of one-time clinics aimed at specific groups of people, usually seniors and people from marginalized communities that have suffered higher rates of COVID-19 infections. 

In Tualatin, one such clinic was held at the Juanita Pohl Center on March 14. The City of Tualatin worked with Washington County and its Medical Reserve Corps to host the clinic. It saw around 500 people receive the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine. Those who attended will receive the second dose on April 11. 

“The goal there is to bring smaller clinics to communities around the county to reach populations that are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), marginalized or underserved, that would be better served at a local clinic,” said Lindsay Marshall, a City employee who helped organize the event. “They are moving around the county to different areas for a couple of months, and then they will pick two or three permanent locations to have community clinics.”

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 ranging from mass vaccination clinics at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport to one-day pop-up clinics at hospitals, community-based organizations or senior centers like the Juanita Pohl Center. 

Tualatin City Councilor Bridget Brooks receives a COVID-19 vaccination at the Juanita Pohl Center. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“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.” 

Locally, mass vaccination sites also include a new Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) clinic being held at Hillsboro Stadium, 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. Rise Church in Tigard also hosted a clinic serving 3,000 people a week through the end of March.

Appointments at local pharmacy chains such as Walmart, Walgreen’s, BiMart, Costco and RiteAid are also available through the Washington County website. 

TVF&R Spokesperson Cassandra Ulven said that agency plans to continue to support vaccination efforts in Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill Counties. 

“We are seeing at the state level and nationally, an improvement in the dose supply,” Ulven said. “We’ve been planning to scale up accordingly, along with our partners. I think that by mid-May we really will see it be a little less challenging for folks.” 

With all Oregonians 16 and older now eligible for vaccination by May 1, that is good news. 

“This has proven to be such a good antidote for the last year,” Ulven said. “To be able to do something to tangibly make progress – it’s such a relief.”

For Tualatin resident Karen Koch, 66, getting vaccinated at Hillsboro Stadium in early March was easy. It was signing up in the first place that was challenging. Efforts to secure an appointment at the Oregon Convention Center site fell through, as did attempts with several pharmacies. Finally, she was able to grab a slot at Hillsboro Stadium because she is an OHSU patient. She used that experience to help others. 

“I was helping all my neighbors who are older than me and a little less computer savvy to secure appointments,” Koch said. 

Tualatin resident Alex Thurber got his vaccination after volunteering to work at OHSU’s Portland Airport clinic. He said the atmosphere of optimism among volunteers there is inspiring. 

“It was almost emotional seeing this line of cars coming in and everybody wanting to get the country back to normal,” he said. 

Thurber also volunteered at the Juanita Pohl Center clinic as part of the City’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

“It was a really interesting to watch it,” he said. “It was very efficient, everybody was really nice. And at the end, two Council members were helping in the last stage. It’s one of these things, like a 9-11 thing, where everybody is pulling together, at least in Oregon.”

The important thing, Marshall said, is that an increasing number of Oregonians are getting vaccinated. 

“People were overwhelmed and had emotions,” she said. “It was a really smooth, joyful sense of relief event. It was great to be able to do that for the community.” 

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.