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'Good steps in the right direction'

Ease, relief and efficiency marked the final morning of Jackson County’s mass vaccination event.

Among the hundreds of locals who began their vaccination process Saturday was a Medford woman who’d seen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic all too frequently.

Shyann Papia of Medford, who described herself as a “death care worker” in Priority 1, Group 4 of the state’s vaccine schedule, expressed relief at having her first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as she stood outside her SUV in the Jackson County Expo parking lot.

“We’ve had so many people affected by this,” Papia said. “It’s a good feeling to take good steps in the right direction.”

Papia said she’s glad that funeral industry was able to use technology to create contactless memorial services to accommodate “something so unorthodox” and unprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic, but acknowledged that the lack of traditional funeral services was a hardship for many people who’d lost loved ones.

She also expressed gratitude for the relative ease it took for her to get her shot. She’d filled out all necessary forms online the night before and had hardly any wait through the maze of orange cones throughout the Expo.

Organizers hit an efficient stride on the last day of Jackson County’s first mass vaccination event.

Teachers Mark and Jennifer Losinski in one vehicle and education worker Terri Estes in another each described wait times of less than five minutes in the same parking lot as Papia shortly before 11 a.m. Saturday.

Nearly 5,300 had begun their vaccination process at the Jackson County Expo in the span of a little more than two days, and officials were ready to vaccinate thousands more throughout the day, according to Jackson County Health and Human Services Health Promotions Manager Tanya Phillips.

In the first hour of the last day of the clinic, teams of Jackson County workers, local volunteers, Southern Oregon healthcare professionals and the Oregon National Guard had administered 675 doses. Another 4,800 doses were administered in the first two days.

Phillips described the 675 doses in one hour as significantly faster than any earlier point in the three-day event.

“Our through-put’s been really efficient,” Phillips said.

Part of that efficiency stemmed from efficient traffic guidance throughout the Expo grounds, and breaking down the vaccination process to different steps. For instance, teams checked paperwork and eligibility at one station at the Expo, medical workers answered patient questions at another before the drive-thru patients would be directed to one of four vaccination lanes through the Seven Feathers Event Center.

During peak times, according to Phillips, two of the four lanes were designated for vehicles with multiple patients while two others were reserved for vehicles with a single patient in a “reverse carpool lane” of sorts.

In most instances, patients didn’t even need to leave their vehicle before being administered their first dose and handed a vaccine record card that contains the lot number and other important information about the vaccine dose.

Phillips said the event’s success took the efforts of the county, the Oregon National Guard and vaccines provided by two major healthcare providers in Jackson County.

“We couldn’t have done it without Providence and Asante at the table,” Phillips said.

Asante Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety Holly Nickerson and Providence Director of General Services Karen Bartalini expressed little concern about supplies running low for the event limited to healthcare and education workers in first phase of the state’s vaccine schedule. Owing to a late-stage influx of 3,500 doses from Providence Health System atop Asante’s 6,000 doses already on hand, the event had a combined 9,500 doses to work with.

Nickerson said Asante will get another shipment of 5,000 doses on Monday. She said Asante is receiving numerous calls about how to get a second dose, but the healthcare provider is trying to make scheduling appointments for the second dose online as simple as possible at asante.org/covid-19/vaccination-events.

“It’s step number five on the Asante website,” Nickerson said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Volunteers line four drive-thru vaccination lanes Saturday morning at the Seven Feathers Event Center at the Jackson County Expo. Organizers were able to vaccinate 675 locals in an hour that morning. Nick Morgan / Mail Tribune
Volunteers mix and prepare doses of the coronavirus vaccine in a prep area Saturday morning inside the Seven Feathers Event Center at the Jackson County Expo. As of Saturday morning roughly 5,300 were vaccinated in a little over two days. Nick Morgan / Mail Tribune