“I am glad I am here. I believe I am making history, helping people make history.” U.S. Forest Service emergency medical technician and ski patrol member Jason Luker said. “Normally I would be home in Washington State waiting for a wildfire to happen and this assignment came up and I wanted to do this. I wanted to come and help. I am glad to help this community.”
Luker joined dozens of volunteers at a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Clatskanie City Park this week. The clinic is a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Columbia County Public Health.
“As a cooperative agreement with FEMA they bring out different resources from parks services, contractors, and the U.S. Forest Service,” Luker said. “This unit was here about a month ago, and we are here giving second doses of the vaccine this week.”
During the drive-thru clinic, vehicles line up heading into and out of the park with people seeking the vaccinations. Participants are directed into the clinic area and are greeted by volunteers trained to safely and effectively administer the vaccine. Other volunteers provide the participants with donated boxes of food if they choose to receive the donation.
“I am glad everyone is coming to this event. It has been a good turnout so far,” Luker said.
The city park vaccination clinic is scheduled from 7 a..m. to 11 a.m. through June 8 in Clatskanie.
Columbia County at High Risk
Under the state’s heath and safety plan to lift the pandemic restrictions, counties must reach 65% of the county population 16 or older with a first vaccine dose and submit a complete plan to the Oregon Health Authority which details how the county will close the equity gaps in its vaccination rates.
In Columbia County, there are 43,366 residents age 16 or older, according to data provided by Portland State University and 28,000 residents would need to be vaccinated to reach a vaccination rate of 65% of individuals (age 16 or older).
The High Risk classification includes restrictions on indoor restaurant dining, fitness centers and gyms, indoor theaters, concert halls, museums, faith institutions, funeral homes, and retail stores.
Columbia County Public Health Director Michael Paul said that for the county to move out of risk classifications and allow restrictions to be lifted, more residents need to be vaccinated.
Paul said he would review additional vaccination details from the health department’s community partners and once he has developed the county’s required state equity plan it will be reviewed by the Columbia County Commissioners before it is submitted to the state.
In a published interview with The Chief in late May, Paul said the largest demographics of remaining unvaccinated residents are under age 65.
“They are busier and could be taking care of a household and balancing employment so they need appointments to be accessible and convenient,” he said. “Younger residents heard a different message about risk over the last year so they may be slower to make an appointment. They may not rush to a vaccination site if they don’t have an underlying health condition.”
Paul said there also are still residents with health issues or disabilities or who face language barriers, which can make getting inoculated against COVID-19 seem overwhelming.
“They may not have a primary care home, or they may have a transportation barrier or some other barrier to overcome,” he said.
Paul added that the county health department continues to look at data that isn’t associated with a political boundary, including factors such as income, disability status, race and ethnicity.
There are currently several providers offering vaccination appointments in Columbia County, including primary care offices, school-based health centers, pharmacies and fire districts.
For more information, contact Columbia County Public Health at 503-397-7247.