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Six months after Oregon's first COVID-19 shot, Multnomah County vaccination effort shifts toward outreach

Dr. Jennifer Vines says the mass vaccination sites have served their purpose, and the effort now moves to a more boots-on-the-ground approach.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been six months since Oregon administered its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Since December 15, 2020, volunteers and health officials have vaccinated hundreds of thousands of Oregonians against COVID-19.

"These vaccines exceeded anyone's wildest hopes as far as safety and effectiveness. That in itself is extraordinary. We've seen our health system step up to just truly do a mass vaccination effort at their large sites," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, health officer for Multnomah County.

Dr. Vines said health officials will be looking at how the first rollout went and if there could've been changes to make it run smoother. She said that will be a debate for years. The initial rollout aimed at certain groups wasn't as welcoming to those with language barriers, she said.

"We know that some of the governor's prioritization groups really emphasized professionals, so healthcare providers, teachers, for example," Dr. Vines said. "So, that was a way to exclude certain communities of color in particular who are less represented in those groups."

At its peak, around 8,000 people were getting vaccinated daily at the Oregon Convention Center mass vaccination site, but that number has dropped significantly as fewer people are getting vaccinated.

On June 19, both the Portland airport and convention center sites will close down. The Hillsboro Stadium mass vaccination site will close later this month.

RELATED: $100 gift card incentive boosts vaccinations in Portland

Vines says the sites have served their purpose, and the effort now moves to a more boots-on-the-ground approach.

"Now that we're having to do more outreach, paying more attention to language interpretation, convenient locations, convenient flexible hours, getting the word out through community based organizations, that is a more labor intensive, but on the ground vaccine effort."

According to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), only three Oregon counties, Multnomah, Washington and Benton, have vaccinated more than 70% of their population over the age of 16 with one or more doses. 

The OHA also says as of Tuesday, Oregon needs 65,484 more people 18 and older to get their first dose of the vaccine before the state can reach Gov. Kate Brown's 70% benchmark, which would fully reopen the state.

To date, Oregon has administered 2,904,705 doses of Pfizer, 2,195,720 doses of Moderna and 299,000 single doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 205,459 known COVID-19 cases in Oregon.

Health officials reported 314 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths on Tuesday. 

There are 172 people with coronavirus in the hospital, which is two fewer than Monday. There are 46 people with coronavirus in intensive care unit beds, which is the same as Monday.

RELATED: COVID vaccine: Here's where to get it in Oregon and Washington

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