It began as a pilot drive-through vaccine clinic for home health care workers, first responders over the Jan. 9-10 weekend at the Oregon Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium. Now OHSU will repeat those clinics this weekend and is joining community partners and other health systems to open vaccine sites in the Portland metro area next week, with the understanding that demand will exceed vaccine allocation.
With approval from the Oregon Health Authority, OHSU moved forward to vaccinate its employees across the clinical, research and educational missions, beginning the week of Jan. 4. More than 17,000 OHSU members have been vaccinated so far, including patient-facing workers whose vaccinations began in December.
Now, as those efforts continue, OHSU is pivoting to focus its resources, expertise and person-power to vaccinate the state. Partnering with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 503) and many other groups.
“Our 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,” said OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS. “Part of the privilege of being vaccinated early means stepping forward to help, and right now it’s ‘all hands on deck,’ as we work collectively to address community vaccination efforts.”
OHSU employees are heeding the call.
On Sunday, Jan. 10, OHSU staff, faculty and students began arriving in the pre-dawn rain on the second of a two-day 12-hour clinic at the Oregon Convention Center and at Hillsboro Stadium to vaccinate home health caregivers and other frontline health care workers.
They were clinicians as well as scientists, parking attendants, IT and finance personnel, fire safety inspectors, quality improvement specialists and more with at least one thing in common:
“I feel keenly the responsibility that comes with the privilege of early vaccination, in particular to the medically underserved communities who have been the most impacted by COVID,” said Penny Hogarth, M.D., professor of molecular and medical genetics, OHSU School of Medicine, a physician-scientist specializing in movement disorders. “I am hopeful that this trial drive-through clinic will be the first of many, bringing the option of vaccination to all in Oregon. Let’s go, go, go!”
Melissa Preciso-Temple, manager of ambulatory care operations, and Debbie Lamberger, director of ambulatory operations, who have managed the OHSU COVID-19 drive-through testing sites at Hillsboro Stadium and the Oregon Convention Center since spring 2020, flipped the model to become vaccination hubs.
More than 200 OHSU employees and students signed up for shifts last weekend as greeters and traffic flow handlers; patient check in and second-dose scheduling, vaccine administration and patient monitoring after their vaccines. More are signing up for this weekend’s clinics, which are by invitation and appointment only for first responders.
‘Hat’s off to the union’
Darryl Cole Sr. gave last weekend’s clinic high marks. Cole cares for his adult son who has multiple sclerosis. He is also program manager for ACTenviro, which cleans facilities that have had COVID-19 outbreaks. Former military and well-versed in logistics, he said he’d put the clinic on par with a military support operation.
Cole learned about the clinic via an email from SEIU 503, which counts among its caregiver members people like Cole who are paid by the state to care for family members, providing an effective and affordable model to support people with debilitating, long-term health challenges.
“Hat’s off to the union,” Cole said, who has worried about bringing home the virus to his family, especially his son, 31, cooped up at home without his physical therapy and swimming sessions since the pandemic. “When the email came through it was like, ‘Whew!’”
Cole arrived at the Convention Center parking-garage-turned clinic at his scheduled time Jan. 10, met up with Bertine Perez, a patient access service specialist (PAS) in the Pain Management Center, who wheeled over his laptop stand to log his health information and schedule his second dose. Then Cole pulled forward and Emmilie McInnis, CMA, a medical assistant, located his record in Epic, Lydia O’Fallon, M.S.N., R. N., a Doernbecher Children’s Hospital nurse, asked about allergies and gave instructions, and Jaqueline Furuno, B.S.N., R.N., CCRN, a pediatric intensive care unit nurse, vaccinated him.
“On two,” Furuno said, sticking him in the left bicep. “You’re awesome!”
Then he pulled around the corner where Greg MacCrone, J.D., M.P.H., who works in OHSU’s contracting services group, was waiting. MacCrone said he views his eight-hour Sunday shift as pay-back for early vaccination – and also views the clinic model as an interesting example of how universal healthcare could work.
The value of science
MacCrone pointed Cole to the patient monitoring area where Nora Panitz B.S.N., R.N., CPN, a pediatric intermediate care nurse, was helping out.
“The people that we vaccinated are first responders that are putting their lives at risk,” Panitz said. “I am honored to help play a small part in protecting them and the people that they serve. I hope that OHSU can help our community understand the importance of these vaccinations… OHSU is emphasizing and demonstrating the value of scientific innovation and proving to our community that we value and are committed to their safety.”
Amal Ahmed and her sister Yasmin Haji, both in-home caregivers, came to the clinic together. Ahmed said she was uncomfortable at first about getting vaccinated. But Haji said she told her, “We all need it, and this is a way we can help prevent the disease.”
Ahmed saw the logic. “We just needed to talk about the pros and cons,” Ahmed said, as the sisters sat in the monitoring area after their vaccines.
Putting down a pandemic
While a parking garage on a cold, rainy Sunday is hardly festive, Christina Milano, M.D., associate professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine, and the clinical lead at Sunday’s clinic, was undeterred.
“Alright! Yes! This is how we put down this pandemic!” she whooped, clapping as she walked between cars.
The sense of relief and gratitude was palpable.
“These clinics are precious to a community that has been hurt and burnt out due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dolly Zhen, a research assistant in molecular and medical genetics, OHSU School of Medicine, who helped staff the clinic that day. “I hope that these clinics will urge the community forward to a new normal where there is less strain and fear, where there is more joy and happiness.”
As the newly vaccinated wheeled out of the garage and into the gray morning, Kevin O’Boyle, M.H.S., vice president for ambulatory care, OHSU Health, who worked all weekend directing traffic in the rain, was moved by their smiles and waves.
“Now we need to tackle how we get this to scale,” O’Boyle said. “This is about taking care of our community.”