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Mass vaccination event at The Expo open to health care, education workers

A mass COVID-19 vaccination event that starts Thursday at the Jackson County Expo will be open to educators, school staff and child care workers, plus people in health care fields.

People in those categories should register in advance at asante.org. Detailed instructions are on the website, along with a complete list of eligible categories of people.

The free drive-thru event is from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

The event is not open to people 65 and older unless they fit into the education and health care categories.

Organizers thought they might have to restrict the event to health care workers only, but with 6,000 shots available, they announced Wednesday they could broaden access to include workers in education and child care.

Widespread vaccination may eventually create herd immunity, slashing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccinations for health care workers started in mid-December and Jackson County cases have been dropping.

“This is the turning point for us to end the pandemic. This is what we need to do to get our community back to recovery,” said Holly Nickerson, vice president of quality and patient safety for Asante.

Eligible people connected to health care include doctors, nurses, nursing home staff and residents, emergency medical technicians, hospital janitors, pharmacists, dentists, therapists, paid or unpaid caregivers of medically fragile children or adults, people in group homes and others associated with health care who could be exposed to COVID-19. They fall in group 1A under the state’s phased vaccination plan.

“So right now, one of our ultimate goals in this pandemic — and this phase of the pandemic — is to get as many people vaccinated as fast as we can, and ensure it is done in the safest manner possible,” said Tanya Phillips, Jackson County health promotion manager.

People will stay in their vehicles throughout the vaccination event, although they can get out to use portable toilets set up for the event. They must wear masks.

Asante and Providence are providing the vaccines for the event. The hospital networks have teamed with Mercy Flights, Jackson County Fire District No. 3, the National Guard, Jackson County government, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and volunteers to stage the biggest COVID-19 vaccination event so far in the county.

“This could not have happened if it was not for our community partners quickly coming together,” Phillips said.

More than 1,000 people had already registered to get vaccinated as of Wednesday, Nickerson said.

“It’s really important that we have those people in 1A and now in education and early learning sign up. We need people to go to asante.org and preregister so we know how many people can participate and will be participating on the day we start vaccinating,” Nickerson said.

People will be given the Pfizer vaccine, which clinical trials show is at least 95% effective at preventing COVID-19 after a second booster shot. Those who go to The Expo for their first COVID-19 shot will get information on how to get the second, which needs to come at least three weeks after the first shot.

Participants should print and fill out the needed paperwork they’ll find on the Asante website when they register. For people without access to a printer, paperwork will be available at The Expo for participants to fill out.

Having the information filled out in advance will speed people through the lines — and there will be lines, organizers cautioned.

They hope to vaccinate about 2,000 people daily over the three-day event.

The Expo had already been staged for the massive outdoor vaccination clinic by Wednesday, with traffic cones and chalk lines marking out the areas for people in their vehicles.

The Oregon National Guard will be helping with everything from managing traffic to administering shots. Medics, doctors and physician assistants are among their ranks, said National Guard Major Stephen Bomar.

“This is truly going to be a mass vaccination site — and it’s great to be a part of it,” he said.

Participants will first go to an area to be checked for eligibility based on a connection to health care or education. Then they’ll drive to an area to be medically screened to make sure it’s safe for them to get the vaccine. After getting a shot in the third area, they’ll move to fourth zone to be watched over by Mercy Flights and Fire District 3 for potential negative reactions to the shots. Anyone can summon help by honking a vehicle horn.

Around the world, a small number of people have experienced severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, especially those who are prone to severe allergic reactions.

The paramedics at The Expo will have medication on hand to reverse allergic reactions, plus an emergency exit route to speed anyone to a hospital.

Organizers have asked people who know they have severe allergies to schedule vaccination at smaller vaccination clinics ongoing in the community.

Chris Pizzi, chief executive officer for Providence Medford Medical Center, said he knows groups of people who aren’t eligible for The Expo mass vaccination event are eagerly waiting for their turn to get a COVID-19 shot.

He said Providence will continue vaccinating people as vaccine shipments come in, with a goal to get through those who are currently eligible as quickly as possible and move on to other people.

In the meantime, Pizzi urged everyone to keep slowing the spread of the virus through mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune A tour of the vaccination event is held at the Jackson County Expo on Wednesday.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune A tour of the vaccination event is held at the Jackson County Expo on Wednesday.