This Friday, June 11, One Community Health will be administering Pfizer vaccines in style, offering food and live music to all who attend their event in the Dalles. Preventative Health Manager Gladys Rivera readily admits that the event is more of a celebration than a formal clinic. After all, Wasco County has almost reached 65%.
When Rivera heard that Oregon Governor Kate Brown would allow the state to reopen when 70% of all Oregon residents ages 18 and older were vaccinated, she made it a goal for her clinic to do its part in vaccinating the surrounding rural and farm communities of northern Oregon.
One Community Health clinics serve three counties in Oregon, as well as Klickitat County across the river in Washington. Roughly 47.4% of Klickitat’s residents have been vaccinated. “But we still need to do some work in Wasco County,” explained Rivera, who figures they need about 1,500 more vaccinations to reach the 65% threshold required of counties to move to the Lower Risk status. She hopes they can reach that milestone Friday.
One Community Health has administered more than 10,000 vaccines and 66.4% of those vaccines have been given to people that identify as either Hispanic or Indigenous, with many employed as seasonal farm workers.
Rivera attributes the clinic’s vaccination success to the organization’s great partnership with Oregon Health Authority (OHA), as well as with other community partners, including growers, employers and local businesses.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has played its part, too. The agency deployed three mobile vaccination units throughout Oregon’s rural communities, which have successfully vaccinated more than 2,500 people across the state.
In March, OHA started a pilot program with One Community Health that allowed certain local health clinics to vaccinate patients they determined to be in the greatest danger of getting COVID-19. “When we got the green light to do that, we moved forward and vaccinated our farm workers, Native Americans and our houseless population,” said Rivera. “We know they are the most vulnerable, because they are the ones that have tested positive.”
On June 4, Hood River County also inched closer to the 70% vaccination threshold when One Community Health coordinated with Webster Orchards to have more than 100 of its cherry harvest pickers vaccinated. Webster Orchards plans to have another 900 seasonal workers come through in the next few weeks and to provide their workers the opportunity to get vaccinated during the company’s orientation.
Rivera said that the seasonal workers were most concerned about experiencing any possible vaccine side effects that would keep them from working. Because they are here from Mexico on a work visa, they are not given paid sick days. Rivera explained, “They want to have a successful harvest so that they’re able to provide financially for their families and they know the only way to do that is to not get infected.” Vaccinated workers are encouraged to call the clinic if they experience symptoms that are not on the list of possible side effects.
One Community Health also partnered with the organization Next Door, which provided the clinic with community health workers that went out to the camps to pre-register seasonal workers. Staff even went door to door to help get folks set up for transportation and partnered with Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, Hood River Pedicab and Columbia Area Transit to get them to their shots.
“Collaboration is really the key to make all of this happen,” emphasized Rivera. “It’s relying on all those partners and really sharing the workload.”
Collaboration between federal, state and local partners has been absolutely critical in the battle against COVID-19. That continued collaboration has allowed 63% of all adult Americans to get vaccinated. And that’s something worth celebrating.
For more information about the June 11 vaccine clinic in The Dalles, contact One Community Health at 541.386.6380. To schedule a vaccine appointment anywhere in Oregon, visit www.getvaccinated.oregon.gov, www.vaccines.gov or call 211.