NEWPORT — Almost 500 people in Lincoln County received the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and the health department anticipates first doses in the county could approach 4,000 by Friday, nearly doubling the number of locals vaccinated in the span of three days.
Assisting on site Wednesday for Lincoln County’s first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination event were representatives from Lincoln County Public Health, Samaritan Health Services, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County School District and local emergency medical services.
The presence of all those agencies at the Lincoln County Commons in Newport was demonstrative of the cooperative effort underway since the vaccine first arrived in the county last month, which has seen Samaritan pooling its vaccine supply with the county’s and helping to staff and host community vaccinations. First responders have not only coordinated and administered vaccinations among their own ranks, but Pacific West Ambulance and North Lincoln Fire and Rescue stepped in to give the vaccine to local long-term care residents and staff who’ve been missed by the federal program through Walgreens (with doses from both the county health department’s and Samaritan’s supply).
Educators (including support staff and child care), health and medical workers of all stripes, and people 75 and older were eligible for three days of mass vaccinations this week in the main exhibition hall at the fairgrounds, where the county has established a community vaccination clinic. All 1,296 appointments for the events were taken within three hours after registration reopened on Tuesday (300 people had registered before sign-ups were paused during the weekend due to uncertainty of supply).
Some people with appointments on Wednesday were unable to make them, health department Public Information Officer Susan Trachsel said, but staff called in 75 people from a waiting list of more than 800 and growing, ensuring that no doses were wasted (the vaccine must be used within hours of thawing in order to be effective).
They’d planned to administer around 400 doses of the Moderna vaccine from 10-dose vials, but thanks to an extra dose or two per vial, others from the waiting list were called in, and 493 people received a shot between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. They ran two hours later than originally scheduled to facilitate the unexpected vaccinations, Trachsel said.
She said Thursday they were still getting 11-12 doses per vial and calling people in from the waiting list. At Wednesday’s pace, they’ll administer 1,479 doses by Friday. On Tuesday, according to the health department, there’d been 2,096 total vaccinations in the county.
Trachsel said the clinic operation ran smoothly. There were no lines at the fairgrounds on Wednesday afternoon, though some stood outside the front door after being called in from the wait list, and to a one, they exuded excitement about their unexpected opportunity to get the shot.
Recipients are scheduled in groups of 36 every 30 minutes and seated at tables in the main hall. After receiving the vaccine — when the News-Times was on the site, shots were being given by a Samaritan nurse and two school nurses — they move to seating in the east hall to be monitored for adverse effects for 15 minutes (30 minutes for people with serious existing health conditions), with Pac West EMS standing by.
Dr. Lesley Ogden, chief executive officer of Samaritan’s two hospitals in Lincoln County, visited the fairgrounds Wednesday to observe the clinic, and was clearly touched by the sight. “This is the first time we’ve seen anything like this. We’re living history,” Ogden said. She said finely honed local partnerships meant the only thing limiting distribution in Lincoln County was supply. “I’m so proud to live here,” Ogden said.
It’s not clear when the health department will be able to hold another large vaccination event. It so far has only been guaranteed 100 doses per week, and no additional large shipments are immediately expected.
Oregon Health Authority spokesperson Jonathan Modie told Yachats News that the health authority recognized the value of events such as the clinic in Newport and is “prioritizing allocations of vaccine doses to high-volume sites such as these, as they definitely demonstrate how efficiently high-capacity vaccination clinics can immunize large numbers of people.”
Ogden said it’s hard to determine ahead of time when they’ll be able to move to the next phase of vaccinations, 1B, which would include “frontline essential workers” in sectors such as public transit, grocery and food production, among others.
“The public health department has done an amazing job identifying and reaching out to people who are eligible in Phase 1A,” Ogden said. “But they don’t know if those whom they haven’t spoken to are declinations or just haven’t made arrangements for a vaccine yet.” And demand for the vaccine from that group remains high. “When they stop seeing registrations from Phase 1A, that’s when they’ll know we’re ready to move forward.”