OHSU is and has been from the beginning, a strong advocate for broad, efficient vaccine distribution to those with the greatest need, including community providers and vulnerable populations. We have been diligently addressing the need to vaccinate health care personnel who are in Phase 1a of the Oregon Health Authority’s distribution plan, but for whom access to the vaccine is not available through a hospital, health system or health care employer.
OHSU learners and employees have been volunteering to vaccinate our members since we received the first shipment of vaccine Dec. 15. They and members across the institution now will turn their energy, focus and expertise to helping vaccinate as many Oregonians as quickly as possible in communities statewide.
We hear the mounting frustration from the community, and we have continued to offer to partner with the state and others to accelerate vaccination. For example, this week we announced our first effort to establish drive-through vaccination clinics for approximately 2,000 Service Employees International Union 503, first responders and community health workers – people with high-risk workplace exposure to COVID-19.
The following are some additional actions that are currently underway that were able to be accelerated because of vaccination strategy and internal effectiveness:
- Central City Concern will use our vaccine clinic facility to administer vaccine doses they receive. leveraging our nursing and management support to vaccinate their providers and staff;
- With dental students trained and able to vaccinate, we are working with the Oregon Dental Association to deliver vaccine to dental providers in the Portland metro area – a population uniquely susceptible to respiratory droplets and COVID-19 infection risk;
- OHSU is supporting a number of community-facing organizations, including Outside In, Asian Health & Service Center, PRISM Health/Cascade AIDS Project, North by Northeast Community Health Clinic, Planned Parenthood and others, by administering vaccine to their providers and staff members at our drive-up sites in Hillsboro and the Convention Center. OHSU will continue to establish additional events to help vaccinate as many community health care providers as quickly as possible.
OHSU has followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Oregon Health Authority in distributing vaccinations to our members, sequencing waves of employees prioritized by workplace risk. Because we moved to quickly and efficiently vaccinate priority groups, we were then able to begin to offering vaccinations to all employees and students with approval from OHA.
Vaccine doses were allocated to OHSU to distribute as per Phase 1a of the state’s vaccination guidelines. This phase is for “health care personnel,” and while frontline, patient-facing workers are appropriately prioritized, the state’s definitions and guidelines, as follows, acknowledges that there are many other functions required to successfully operate an institution like OHSU:
Health care personnel (HCP): HCP include paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials, including body substances (e.g., blood, tissue and specific body fluids); contaminated medical supplies, devices and equipment; contaminated environmental surfaces; or contaminated air. HCP include, but are not limited to, emergency medical service (EMS) personnel, nurses, nursing assistants, home health care personnel, physicians, technicians, therapists, phlebotomists, pharmacists, students and trainees, contractual staff not employed by the health care facility, and persons not directly involved in patient care but who could be exposed to infectious agents that can be transmitted in the health care setting (e.g., clerical, dietary, environmental services, laundry, security, engineering and facilities management, administrative, billing and volunteer personnel).
OHSU’s mission to improve the health and well-being of all Oregonians remains at the forefront, and accelerating distribution is necessary to increase the number of Oregonians who are vaccinated. We are doing that by every means available to us within our capacity.