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Parking-lot vaccine clinics offered

With coronavirus restrictions putting a damper on nonessential medical visits in recent months, local health officials are rallying to ensure routine immunizations are still accessible for local families.

Offering a trio of parking lot vaccine clinics, LaClinica nurses set up shop Wednesday and administered some 73 vaccines to more than three-dozen children.

Two other events, available for ages 2 to 18, are set for Saturday and Monday. LaClincia officials say all are welcome, including uninsured patients and those not previously seen.

Becky Sherman, director of nursing at LaClinica, said health care providers are eager to ensure availability of vaccines for preventable diseases at a time when any secondary epidemics could devastate the health care system.

State health officials reported a near 50% drop in routine measles, mumps and rubella shots between mid-February and the first week of April as coronavirus swept across the country, according to an Oregon survey and the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Sherman said the drop in vaccination rates could be attributed to a combination of factors ranging from families losing insurance coverage or cancellation of nonessential health appointments to an overall climate of fear about illness and vaccines in light of COVID-19.

“For us, we have never closed our doors to childhood immunizations, and the reason for that is that the very last ting we need in a pandemic is to have another epidemic like measles or pertussis,” said Sherman.

“And at the level of community immunity that we have, which is pretty low here in certain pockets of the Rogue Valley, we are really at risk. To have an outbreak of measles and then to put the regular flu season and [COVID-19] on top of all that would be devastating and absolutely not sustainable for our health care system.”

Wednesday’s shot clinic, said Sherman, included a range of patients, from small children who were due for well child vaccines to teens who would have been able to receive TDAP or HPV vaccines from school nurses prior to school closures.

“It was really a good success. We just welcomed our parents and children with open arms and were willing to accommodate however we needed to,” she said.

“We understand there are a lot of parents who just feel like, ‘You know, I don’t really feel comfortable going into a clinic space right now.’ And we just want to make sure children can get those vaccines and that we can also help to address any fears that parents might have.”

Planned clinic sessions Saturday and Monday will include drive-up registration and the ability for families to safely wait in their vehicles. Nurses will wear appropriate protective gear and administer vaccines wherever patients are most comfortable — in the backseat of a vehicle or at a table set up under a group of tents.

Clinics will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Appointments are recommended but not required, and assistance with signups for the Oregon Health Plan, if needed, will be available.

Saturday’s clinic will be at the Wellness Center, 730 Biddle Road, Medford.

Monday’s clinic will be at Phoenix Health Center, 3617 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.

In a climate of uncertainty, Sherman said vaccines should provide peace of mind.

“There is a lot of misinformation flying around right now and even a fear out there that only people who got the flu vaccine are now getting [coronavirus],” she said.

“It’s so hard to fight the misinformation, but with so few things left in this world that we can actually be certain about, vaccines are absolutely safe and effective, and they have saved more lives and prevented more deaths than any other thing we have ever done in public health.”

Families can drop in or call 541-535-6239 to schedule an appointment.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

AP FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2019, file photo, a health care worker prepares syringes, including a vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), for a child's inoculations at the International Community Health Services in Seattle.