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Mass vaccination effort 'incredibly successful' so far

An estimated 2,500 to 3,000 health care workers and educators received COVID-19 shots on the first day of a mass vaccination effort at the Jackson County Expo, but organizers issued an emergency message that the three-day event is not for senior citizens and the general public unless they fit into eligible categories.

Ineligible people who come will be turned away.

The free drive-thru event started at 9 a.m. Thursday and ended half an hour early at 4 p.m. after organizers exceeded their daily goal of delivering 2,000 shots.

“Overall, the event was incredibly successful. The feedback that we received was that it was very easy to navigate. Everyone was very pleased. I had one man tell me that this event gave him hope,” said Tanya Phillips, public information officer for the vaccination event at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point.

The event is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a goal of delivering 6,000 shots.

Phillips said it could end before 4:30 p.m. Saturday if that 6,000-shot goal is reached early.

The Asante and Providence hospital systems provided the 6,000 shots.

Although some people have expressed hesitancy about taking the new COVID-19 vaccine, the successful first day of the event showed local demand is strong, said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County medical director.

“I think the majority of people want to get vaccinated. Some of those people really, really, really want to get vaccinated,” he said.

Shames said he sees a lot of pent-up desire to get the vaccine.

People can check their eligibility to get vaccinated at The Expo event. See instructions and register at asante.org/covid-19/vaccination-events.

Oregon has adopted a staged approach to vaccine rollout.

People involved in health care plus educators, K-12 school staff and child care workers are eligible for the vaccination event in Jackson County.

Local school officials have said cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others who provide services for students should get vaccinated along with teachers and other school staff.

Oregon isn’t opening up vaccinations for senior citizens until Feb. 8, and at that time only those 80 and older are eligible, according to the state’s current plan.

The state will open vaccination to those 75 and older, 70 and older and 65 and older in following weeks.

There is no timeline yet for when the general public will be vaccinated.

People who came to the vaccination event at The Expo experienced waits ranging from about 10 to 50 minutes. At one point, traffic was backed up to the Family Fun Center along Peninger Road as people waited in their cars to move through the lines, Phillips said.

Organizers have recommended people bring drinks and snacks. Participants remain in their cars throughout the process, except if they need to get out to use portable toilets. They must wear masks and shouldn’t have pets in their vehicles.

Jackson County departments, the National Guard, Asante, Providence, Mercy Flights, Jackson County Fire District No. 3 and volunteers have teamed up to stage the largest COVID-19 vaccination event in the county so far.

Eligible people with ties to health care include hospital staff, nursing home staff and residents, tribal health program workers, paramedics and other first responders, health care interpreters, people in adult foster care, people in group homes for people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and their caregivers, hospice workers, mobile crisis care workers, therapists, dentists, correctional employees, nonemergency medical transport workers, adults and age-eligible children with medical conditions or disabilities who receive services in their homes, and paid or unpaid caregivers — including parents — of medically fragile children or adults who live at home.

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

A multiday mass vaccination effort is underway at The Expo for education and health care workers. Courtesy photo