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More than 6,200 complete vaccinations at Expo clinic

Jackson County health and hospital officials acknowledged many locals’ frustrations accessing their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and said improved access and transparency is in the works.

At a Saturday morning press conference announcing that more than 6,200 locals had received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the drive-thru clinic, Tanya Phillips, health promotion manager for Jackson County Health and Human Services said that the county is working with its “community partners” — including Southern Oregon’s two major healthcare providers — to determine each agency’s upcoming allocations of vaccines from the state.

From there, Phillips said the county, Asante and Providence will work out a way to distribute the vaccine “so that it is easily accessible, and equitable as well.”

She stopped short at the press conference of a firm announcement beyond that Jackson County Public Health will have “more information in the coming days” about the next wave of vaccine and its distribution.

“I’m hoping it’s soon,” Phillips said in response to a question about setting a timeframe, “... because communicating about where people can get the vaccine is really important.”

“We understand that it’s been very confusing about who is eligible, where they can get the vaccine,” she said. “It’s been a slow rollout.”

In the meantime, Phillips encouraged anyone eligible for their first dose of the vaccine to dial 211.

“You’ll get another person on that line and they’ll be able to tell you at least where in Jackson County there’s some vaccine and how to make that appointment,” Phillips said.

When the next event will happen hinges on supply, but Phillips said the county and its partners “definitely want to” hold future similar drive-thru vaccination clinics.

“I think we’ve shown that this is a very successful model of being able to vaccinate a very high number of people,” Phillips said. “We have the partnerships in place which is fantastic and needed.”

Phillips, Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety Holly Nickerson and Providence Director of General Services Karen Bartalini each touched on the three-day vaccination events at the Jackson County Expo as an example of how they can collaborate.

Nickerson said that Asante “continues to ask for patience” from the public as the healthcare provider continues its “conversations with the state.”

“We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re willing to partner and do it,” Nickerson said.

About 7,200 people had their first dose of the vaccine at the January event. The second-dose focused event at the Expo had vaccinated 5,428 locals with their booster shot Thursday and Friday, and vaccinated another 840 in the first hour of Saturday morning.

While the first- and second doses are identical to each other, Nickerson said that the vaccines are allocated in a way that ensures the vaccines get used for the full schedule. The second dose of the vaccine is 95% effective against COVID-19.

“They can be used either way, but the way the state gives us vaccine we have to be sure to match numbers whatever they give us for the first dose, that’s what we give for the second dose,” Nickerson said.

Only the Pfizer vaccine was distributed at the two events because booster doses must be from the same manufacturer to be effective.

Across Jackson County, 12,434 people in Jackson County were fully vaccinated as of Friday and another 10,240 had begun the vaccination process with their first dose, according to the latest Oregon Health Authority data.

Health officials recommend that those who’ve begun their vaccination schedule and those who’ve completed their regimen continue to follow earlier guidelines of frequently washing hands, social distancing, wear masks in public and staying home when they’re sick.

“All of those still apply,” Phillips said. “One of those issues is we don’t necessarily have herd immunity in our community, so it’s still important that everybody uses all of those strategies.”

“If you look at COVID-19 as a whole, it’s not one strategy that’s going to fix this pandemic — it’s everything that we have on the table.”

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority recorded 474 new coronavirus cases and 43 new deaths Saturday, bringing the state’s latest case count to 150,034 and the latest death toll to 2,137.

The fatalities involved residents of Benton, Clackamas, Crook, Deschutes, Hood River, Jefferson, Josephine, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Umatilla Wasco, Washington and Yamhill counties ranging from 31 to 101 years old.

Among the 474 new cases were 33 new cases in Jackson County, according to local health officials.

As of Saturday, there were 24 COVID-positive patients in Jackson and Josephine County hospitals including three patients in Intensive Care Units, according to Jackson County Public Health. That’s an increase of five hospitalizations overall compared to Friday, but the number of patients in the ICU dropped by one.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

A volunteer directs traffic through Jackson County Expo grounds Saturday morning during a drive thru vaccination clinic.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
A nation guard volunteer administers the COVID-19 vaccine Saturday morning during the Jackson County Expo during the drive thru vaccination event.{ }{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune