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Drive-thru clinic brings vaccine to Ashland

ASHLAND — A drive-thru clinic at a Southern Oregon University parking lot was scheduled to vaccinate 166 people age 65 and older Wednesday.

The Ashland Senior Services Division coordinated the clinic, Mercy Flights provided vaccinations directly from the state and Ashland Fire & Rescue handled logistics and post-vaccine health monitoring, according to Ashland Senior Services Superintendent Isleen Glatt.

Facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines and challenges with organized rollouts across the state, Glatt was invited into a working group organized by Jackson County Public Health to focus on effectively connecting the local senior population to vaccines, she said.

The working group also includes members of Rogue Valley Council of Governments Senior and Disability Services, Community Volunteer Network, Oregon Aging and People with Disabilities Medford office and representatives from Jackson County Public Health.

The group is one of the “population work groups” established to assist with vaccine rollout, according to Tanya Phillips, Jackson County Public Health information officer.

The groups are composed of organizations with direct connections to those community members often harder to reach on a mass scale, when social media and news coverage fall short, Phillips said. The senior work group became a primary branch assisting the county with outreach to senior populations, resolving barriers such as internet access and mobility, Phillips said.

“They are really playing this role of trying to identify where people can go to get the vaccine and if what is currently placed is not a good fit, then they create these lists and work with the county so that we can match them up with a current COVID-19 provider that can provide the vaccine for that population,” Phillips said.

Another work group has evolved to focus on barriers facing the Latino community, including displacement impacts from summer 2020 wildfires and language, she said.

Vaccination events at the Jackson County Expo were reported to have gone smoothly, but remain a challenging option for seniors without car transportation, Glatt said.

“We became very aware with COVID that some of the same inequities in our society were reflected, once again, in who was getting sick and in who was getting vaccines,” she said.

The county has the physical vaccine, oversight and expertise, while participating organizations in the working group have direct access to seniors in need, broad client databases and personal relationships already in place, Glatt said.

The high-throughput Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic supported by Asante, Providence and Jackson County sees 500-1,000 people per day with mass scheduling booked out several months, she said.

In Ashland, Glatt said she began compiling a vaccination interest list starting with the oldest clients associated with senior services. Volunteers called more than 300 people to screen for vaccine preferences and gather information. The interest list served as a connection point for information about the community clinic, she said.

“We just started putting the word out however we could and indeed, lots of our patrons were able to get scheduled — the ones that were patient enough to wait on hold for an hour or multiple hours,” Glatt said.

Ashland seniors age 65 and older can sign up to be placed on the list through an online forum at ashland.or.us/senior. Those without internet access may call 541-488-5342. Seniors and people with disabilities outside Ashland city limits can call Aging and Disability Resource Connection at 541-618-7572 to be placed on their list.

About 350 of 500 people on the Ashland Senior Services list have been vaccinated so far, Glatt said. The division filled 160 appointments from the interest list for the March 10 clinic, with the oldest, most vulnerable and those with transportation barriers at the top.

Mercy Flights plans to visit neighboring groups of homebound people who cannot visit a clinic, and senior services is working with the county to arrange onsite clinics at certain senior communities for people who were missed in Phase 1A, she said.

The challenge for many seniors, Glatt said, is changes regarding the vaccine occur so rapidly that by the time a notice is publicized, slots are already filled. By emailing out notices to clients in the appropriate age range, Glatt said she has held some dedicated slots for seniors most in need.

Transportation has been less of a widespread obstacle than anticipated, as many seniors interested in the vaccine will walk to a local clinic event or call family to get themselves to this priority appointment, she said. Still, through the working group, Glatt connected with the Call-A-Ride program and Rogue Valley Transportation District to arrange transport when necessary.

Nearly all volunteer drivers have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine as part of the Phase 1A vaccination group, non-emergency medical transportation workers, she said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

A vaccine clinic for is held at Southern Oregon University in Ashland on Wednesday. (Jamie Lusch / Ashland Tidings)