New express COVID-19 vaccination clinics to provide more opportunities

Debra, a health corps volunteer, can be seen preparing to give vaccines at the Albany Fairground Emergency facility. Due to decrease in demand for vaccines, Benton County has transitioned to express vaccination clinics.

Kelsy Valentine, News Contributor

As the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations per day continues to decrease, Oregon is now distributing COVID-19 vaccines through express vaccination clinics in order to reach a wider variety of Oregon locations.

Mass vaccination clinics distributing the COVID-19 vaccines, such as the one at Reser Stadium, were set up months ago to help get vaccines into as many arms as possible in a short amount of time. The clinics helped many people to get vaccinated quickly and efficiently but, with almost 70% of Oregon’s population vaccinated, there has been less demand for vaccines recently.

Thus, the focus has now shifted away from quickly vaccinating large numbers of people to getting the vaccines to a wider variety of places for the people who have yet to be vaccinated. This is being done through the new express vaccination clinics.

“[As] appointments at these mass vaccination sites have slowed down, there was a need to transition to the next phase of the vaccination strategy, which is designed to better address the needs of people who have not yet chosen to get vaccination,” said Jonathan Modie, the lead communications officer at the Oregon Health Authority public health division.

These people, Modie said, are the ones who may have limited resources or no access to a mass vaccination clinic due to work or other obligations. So the strategy now is to bring the vaccines to those residents and to get vaccines to clinics and work sites where receiving a vaccine can be easy and convenient.

“We’re talking about moving doses to those familiar places where people might typically get a flu shot or other vaccination,” Modie said.

With the express vaccination clinics, Oregon is also putting more focus on serving minority and generally underrepresented communities.

“A lot of the community-based organizations we work with serve and support people who have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic,” Modie said. “Members of the BIPOC community—Black, Indigenous, people of color, our travel communities. They’re community-based organizations that serve all of those and we want to make sure they have vaccines so they can provide those when someone comes in.”

Samaritan Health, which operated the mass vaccination clinics in Reser Stadium, has also decided to shift away from this mass vaccination clinic strategy.

“Due to decreasing demands for vaccines… we offer vaccines both on a drop-in basis and by appointment throughout our services area in Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties,” said Larissa Balzer, the associate vice president of strategic planning for Samaritan Health Services.

At Samaritan Health, Balzar said patients can stop by any SamCare Express location between 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday or between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. 

“Vaccines are available at our SamCare Express locations in Corvallis and Albany, seven days a week, as opposed to the mass clinics at Reser which were only available up to three days a week,” Balzar said. “Anyone 12 and older can drop in to get a vaccine at one of these locations.”

According to Modie, these vaccines are also free to everyone and will not be affected by income, identification, where someone lives, or immigration status, so anyone who wants a vaccine can get one.

“We just really encourage people to get out there, to get vaccinated, and we appreciate everyone who has been vaccinated [and] who really are helping protect our communities,” Modie said. “They are protecting their neighbors, their friends, their families, loved ones, they are protecting themselves, and it is making a huge difference.”