Hundreds of Oregonians vaccinated at free Hermiston clinic

HERMISTON, Ore. — Hundreds of Oregonians lined up at the Good Shepherd Healthcare System in Hermiston Thursday to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Residents who were able to sign up for the free clinic chose the morning shift if they were getting the first dose or the afternoon shift if they were getting the second.

Chief Operating Officer Jim Schlenker said he expected his team to give out nearly 900 vaccines.

“We’re starting to get consistent allocations from the county so we’re trying to get a better system in place,” Schlenker said.

To prepare for the clinic, the team set up two conference rooms as the vaccination sites.

“We have five shooters today giving the vaccine and then the recipient can go right into a separate area for the 15 minute waiting period,” Schlenker said. “We have nurses available to keep watch so it’s pretty streamlined.”

Besides giving the vaccine, the clinic’s staff also helps with vaccine appointments.

“We’ve actually had some of our staff get calls from people needing help and they’ll actually sign them up over the phone for those who aren’t as technically savvy as others,” Schlenker said.

Officials said they’ve managed to give out thousands of vaccines in the couple of months they’ve been open.

“As of February 12, Good Shepherd has vaccinated 2,096 individuals with prime [first] doses and 1,563 with booster [second] doses.  Allocation projections are looking better for Umatilla County and our primary goal is to help Umatilla County Public Health to vaccinate as many as we can,” said Quality & Infection Control Director Devin Goldman.

Included in those eligible for the vaccine are teachers and for the Hermiston School District, it seems like there’s a “light at the end of the tunnel.”

“Nearly 50% of our staff have been vaccinated,” said Superintendent Tricia Mooney. “Some of our teachers who have health conditions now have the ability to be vaccinated and that’s definitely created a sense of relief.”

Mooney said that with vaccinations and the continuation of COVID-19 safety procedures, students are closer to returning to full-time in-person learning.

“On Monday the 8th we’ll have all of our elementary students in hybrids and on the 22nd the middle school students will join,” Mooney said. “On April 12th right after spring break, we’ll have all of our high school students in hybrid.”

She added that as the numbers keep going down in the county, the community is “seeing a breath of fresh air.”

“I’m excited just seeing the people come in and continue down the path of getting toward whatever the new normal is and being able to protect our community,” Schlenker said.

According to a news release from GSHCS, free vaccine clinics will be held weekly at 610 NW 11th Street in Hermiston.

The appointment link goes live at 8:00 a.m. the Monday before the clinic takes place and you can sign up here.