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Drive-thru FEMA clinic now open

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune FEMA helps with a vaccination drive-thru and walk-thru clinic Wednesday at The Expo.
Jackson County expands hours at Expo walk-in clinic

From privacy to the languages patients speak, a new drive-thru clinic at The Expo is designed to remove as many individual barriers to the COVID-19 vaccine as possible.

On Thursday, cars trickled through The Expo on the first official day of the FEMA pilot Community Vaccination Center, but the program will be able to administer as many as 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine per day, according to Major Paul Harris with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Harris, the officer in charge of the vaccine support team, is among more than 100 marines and sailors deployed out of Camp Pendleton, California, for the next eight weeks as part of a project that draws resources from local, state and federal agencies to administer COVID-19 vaccines to Southern Oregonians.

Although FEMA encourages people to schedule an appointment at jacksoncounty.org/getvaccinated, Harris said an appointment or preregistration is not required.

“If they don’t have the forms or if they don’t have an appointment, we’re not going to turn them away,” Harris said outside a check-in gate. Volunteers and personnel at the gate are trained to provide a clipboard and necessary forms.

Staff at the gate are trained to identify any special needs the patient may have, such as language, according to Harris and FEMA disability integration advisor Carole Stevenson.

“We have the technology to support any language needs,” Stevenson said, adding that staff who speak Spanish and Tagalog are on site.

For all other languages, FEMA can use a video remote interpretor and an iPad to accommodate speakers of visual languages such as American Sign Language.

The drive-thru clinic had a goal of 600 vaccinations Thursday, and plans to “bump up” to 1,000 vaccinations per day by Friday, according to U.S. Army Lt. Col. Charles Calio, a public affairs officer deployed with Task Force 46.

“There’s typically a ramp-up period, and so as the word spreads and people become aware that this facility is available and open, you’ll start to see an increase as far as the number of people that come through,” Calio said.

The clinic uses the Pfizer vaccine, which is approved for patients 16 and older.

Adjacent to the drive-thru clinic at the Mace Building of The Expo is the Jackson County Health and Human Services walk-in clinic, which is available to patients 18 or older, because the Jackson County clinic uses the Moderna vaccine, according to Jackson County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Tanya Phillips.

Effective Thursday, the walk-in clinic expanded its hours to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Phillips said she hopes the expanded hours will draw more people who may have previously missed opportunities because it fell during most people’s work hours.

“We have quite a bit of capacity,” Phillips said. “Right now we’re averaging about 200 in a day, and our capacity is about 700 in a day.”

Wait times when the ADA-compliant walk-up clinic is at capacity are around 15 minutes, according to Phillips, plus a recommended 15-minute monitoring period watching for signs of anaphylaxis.

The county has a team of four vaccinators through the Department of Defense, and four lines in the walk-up clinic, so at slower times the wait is far shorter.

“Right now there really isn’t a wait — maybe 20 minutes max for the whole process,” Phillips said.

The vaccine is free at both sites. According to FEMA and Jackson County officials, neither require patients to provide insurance information nor do they have to print out any forms ahead of time.

“We've removed as many barriers as possible,” Phillips said, describing the installation of privacy curtains at the walk-up clinic

The expansion of the walk-up clinic and the launch of the FEMA drive-thru clinic occurred on the same day that Jackson County health officials recorded 93 new COVID-19 cases — the most in a single day since Jan. 28 — and two more local deaths.

The deaths included a 42-year-old man who positive March 25 and died Sunday at Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, and a 67-year-old man who tested positive March 29 and died Sunday at Ashland Community Hospital. Both men had underlying health conditions.

The new Jackson County cases were among 989 new cases and six deaths reported around the state Wednesday, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“Seeing the number of cases that we had today and the two COVID-related deaths is really concerning,” Phillips said. “This is something we can do so that we can return to some normalcy and start doing the things that we missed doing through COVID.”

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

If you go

Jackson County Vaccination Equity Center at The Expo, 1 Peninger Road, Central Point

Appointments recommended but not required.

Drive-thru clinic hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, noon to 7 p.m. Fridays through Tuesdays

Jackson County walk-up clinic hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

For information or to schedule an appointment, see https://jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Vaccine-Appointments/jackson-county-vaccination-equity-center-at-the-expo