OHSU holds first pilot drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - OHSU held the first pilot drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Oregon Saturday at the Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium.

Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen many industries make shifts to drive-thru models for safety. Leslie Fox is a home care worker and said the process had her in and out within about half an hour.

“It couldn’t be any easier than what it was today, so we didn’t have to get out, we don’t have to worry about being around other people and possibly getting exposed,” Fox said.

Fox cares for her sister and said she was worried that home care workers might get lost in the vaccine rollout.

“We’re not out there in the public,” she said. “We aren’t seen a whole lot, so it’s really important for us to be able to be recognized. I’m glad that we were.”

Dr. Renee Edwards of OHSU said that most of the logistics were ready to go because both the Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium offer drive-thru testing for COVID-19 during the week.

“We already had in place the testing facilities for months here at the convention center, and at the Hillsboro Stadium this gave us a perfect opportunity to turn it over to the vaccination instead of testing this weekend and get started with this modality,” Edwards said.

OHSU partnered with SEIU Local 503, Oregon’s Public Services and Care Provider Union. The goal was to vaccinate about 2,000 home care workers, first responders and other community health workers. Melissa Unger explained that home care workers are often hard to reach because they don’t work in a facility. She said most jumped at the opportunity to get the vaccine.

“We sent out an email at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night and had over 1,000 slots filled by 9:30 a.m. Friday morning,” Unger said.

The drive-thru process is simple, you drive in and once you’ve checked in, the staff raises your windshield wiper to indicate you’re ready to be vaccinated. After you’re vaccinated, a staff member writes the time you’re allowed to leave on your car.

Joe Ness, the Chief Operating Officer at OHSU, explained that most people have to wait 15 minutes, but if you’re prone to allergic reactions, you have to wait for 30.

“We have a waiting line where we have monitors who are trained and able to identify any problems that are occurring with a patient, and we have on-site paramedics that would be called in should anyone have a reaction to the vaccine,” Ness said.

OHSU said it would take lessons learned from this weekend to help improve future vaccination clinics.

“So happy birthday to come in and get my vaccination, which is just fantastic,” Fox said. Both the Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium will return to COVID-19 testing sites during the week.

Saturday's clinic was by invitation only.

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