By Alex Reich, OMN photographer
Samaritan Health Services has started offering the ability for residents above 18 to choose which COVID-19 vaccine they want to receive when they schedule their vaccine appointments on their website.
When SHS began offering free COVID-19 vaccines to Benton County residents at Reser Stadium, people could sign up through their website, but there was no option to choose which vaccine they wanted. Someone signing up for an appointment would simply choose a time and day to receive their first vaccine dose.
Now however, after passing a brief screening, the sign up offers multiple options that allow someone to choose the location and type of vaccine they want to receive.
Ian Rollins, marketing and communications strategist with Samaritan Health Services said they’ve always posted the brand of vaccine available but that this change was made because they got feedback from patients saying they didn’t know which vaccine they were receiving.
“We updated the scheduling platform to make it clear to our patients that they have a choice,” Rollins said via email.
Rollins said they mainly offer the Pfizer vaccine but they do also administer Moderna vaccines. SHS also offers a choice between one-dose and two-dose series when they receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
However, despite that patients can now choose between vaccines, they are still encouraged by SHS staff to receive the vaccine from whatever provider is most available.
“We are still encouraging people to get whatever vaccine they can get now, as all three of them are safe and effective,” Jonathan Modie, lead communications officer for the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, said via email. “That said, as supplies of all three available vaccines continue to increase in Oregon, more and more vaccine providers are offering a choice for which vaccine people can get.”
Even though Johnson & Johnson vaccines recently came under scrutiny due to blood clotting problems in women, Samaritan Health is still offering this vaccine to patients. All patients do have the choice not to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however.
According to Rollins, Samaritan Health is also giving some of their Johnson & Johnson vaccines to hospital patients who want to be vaccinated before they leave.
“It’s logistically easier to give inpatients a one-shot vaccine than schedule them for a second dose after they leave the hospital,” Rollins said. “We set aside 100 Johnson & Johnson doses each week for inpatients, and we make any remaining doses available at the vaccination clinics we operate throughout our service area of Benton, Lincoln and Linn counties.”
After the Federal Drug Administration lifted its pause on the use of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the OHA issued a press release saying health care providers could continue to offer Johnson & Johnson vaccines, “if they can ensure patients or their caregivers are informed about the benefits and risks of the vaccine in their primary language.”
Rollins said patients who go to walk-in appointments can even sometimes choose which vaccine they want to receive when they have enough supply of multiple vaccines. Walk-in appointments are more constraining, however, as Samaritan Health’s vaccine availability is dependent on what they receive from the state.
“The goal is to make the vaccines as available as possible everywhere in the state so that they’re extremely easy and convenient to get,” Modie said. “Some vaccine providers have ordered multiple types of vaccines, so you may be able to choose which brand you get, depending on the vaccine provider.”
Samaritan Health continues to also encourage everyone who can to receive the vaccines.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are our best way to end the pandemic and return to the lives we enjoyed before the pandemic began,” Rollins said. “They are safe and effective, and we encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Together, we can end this pandemic and ensure a healthy tomorrow!”