CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Local officials are hammering down the final details for a planned drive-in coronavirus vaccination event at the Jackson County Expo later this month. But with an increase in vaccine doses no longer expected from the federal government, the upcoming event will be for groups in Phase 1a only.
The drive-in event is still planned for January 21, 22, and 23 at the Expo, and several dozen National Guard members are expected to be on-hand to help with all aspects of the initiative — from logistics to administering the vaccines.
Officials from Jackson County, Josephine County, and Asante held a press briefing on Friday to go over the still-evolving details of the event, with more anticipated in the near future.
According to Holly Nickerson, Asante's Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety, a sign-up portal and necessary paperwork specific to this event will be made available on their website beginning Monday, January 18.
Eligible members of Phase 1a — including healthcare workers, first responders, and both residents and staff of long-term care facilities — are strongly encouraged to visit the site and have that paperwork prepared ahead of time.
Earlier this week, there was some indication that eligibility could expand to include seniors 65 and older, educators, and childcare workers. However, there has been no corresponding increase in doses to aid local officials in making that a reality, and Jackson County confirmed on Friday that this first event will be for Phase 1a only.
When the event begins, people will drive up to a checkpoint to have their paperwork screened. They'll be vaccinated while still in their vehicles, then ushered to a waiting area for observation over a period of 15 minutes or more to ensure that there are no major allergic reactions.
Attendees will receive a form showing that they've received the first dose, along with details on how to receive a second dose in the following weeks.
The precise hours of the event are still under discussion, but Asante said that they anticipate it being open for roughly 8 hours each day.
Nickerson said that Asante has been performing roughly 500 vaccinations per day in southern Oregon, each day of the week. The goal for the Expo event is to vaccinate 5,000 people over the three-day period.
A second, similar event is being planned for Josephine County on January 24 and 25, though the site and precise details are still being developed. Officials hope to perform 3,000 vaccinations at this event, which may be open to educators.
Both the Jackson and Josephine County drive-in events will be supplied with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage. Nickerson said Asante's staff is now well-accustomed the process of vaccine storage and thawing, and will have enough doses prepared for use as needed.
As of Friday, it was still unclear whether residents of the two counties will be able to receive a vaccine at either event, or if they will be required to attend one within their own county.
There are roughly 20,000 people in Phase 1a in Jackson County, public health officials said, and more than 7,000 in Josephine County. Josephine County Public Health director Mike Weber described widespread hesitation about the vaccine in areas of the county, even among the Phase 1a group — indicating that vaccinating 60 percent of that group may be a stretch.
Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County's Health Officer, said that he is hopeful that they will soon be able to expand vaccinations to include seniors and educators as was previously promised by state and federal officials — but with the latest revelation that shipment numbers have largely remained stagnant, he did not feel comfortable making any promises.
Asante said that they currently have 7,000 doses of the vaccine on hand — just enough to supply the Jackson County event while still performing daily vaccinations at their own facilities. Shames said that he anticipated continuing to receive new shipments as they have for weeks, but the number does not reflect a local stockpile that could readily supply expanded categories of people — particularly as a growing number of people await their second doses.
As of Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority reported that 3,888 people had been vaccinated in Jackson County, with 991 having received second doses. 1,132 people had been vaccinated in Josephine County, with only 136 receiving second doses.
Shames acknowledged Friday that documentation of the number of vaccines administered on a local level has been lagging in Oregon — so while some state-level data suggests that there are large numbers of vaccine doses sitting in reserve, local partners are actually dealing with a relatively thin margin of vaccines that have yet to be administered.