On the road: bringing COVID-19 vaccines and health care to the people

Available in Spanish

photograph of two women standing outside a van tha says "Public Health - Clatsop County."
Clatsop County staff Mary Hendricks RN (left) and administrative assistant Carolina Guerrero-Lara (right)

Getting health care and COVID-19 vaccines to the rural areas of 1,000-square-mile Clatsop County has been challenging at times, but a new mobile health clinic is changing that. This summer, the county was able to buy a mobile health clinic funded by a grant from the Oregon Health Authority.

“The van has always been on the wish list,” said Lisa McClean, clinical manager and nursing supervisor for Clatsop County. “We have been using stand-alone buildings to do vaccine outreach. That has been really difficult because we needed to find available space to go into different communities. With the van we don’t have to rely on available space.”

The mobile clinic is set up for blood draws and has a refrigerator for specimens, an exam table and spaces for a lab and administrative work. It has two entrances, allowing for two medical stations, and an awning on the outside adds space for two more medical stations.

photograph of a nurse administering a COVID-19 vaccine
Mary Hendricks, RN, administering a COVID-19 vaccination inside the mobile health clinic

The health care team gave the mobile clinic a try-out in early July when they vaccinated 12 students at the Tongue Point Jobs Corps.   

“It worked out well,” McClean said. “The students really liked it. One other thing with this van is we’ve got four different canneries that we go to and vaccinate workers. We were always using the lunchrooms so we had larger venues to set up a clinic. Now with this mobile van we can just go there, we’re not going to have to interrupt their production, and it’s cleaner. It’s a much better facility for us.”

This fall, the mobile team plans to administer the next generation of COVID-19 booster shots. McClean says they’re waiting for guidelines to see who will be eligible, and when, before planning how to reach those community members.

For the most part, the mobile clinic has been put into service for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, but future uses are many and varied.

For example, the van will also take trips into school districts, not only to deliver pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations but the standard immunizations that school children receive as well.

“The possibilities are much greater than we started out thinking they would be,” said McClean. “We had a business call to get their employees the Hepatitis B vaccine. That’s another opportunity we didn’t realize we have with this van.”

Clatsop County’s vaccination events, including the mobile clinic’s schedule, can be found here.