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Smaller Oregon counties taking personal approach with vaccine rollout

Many smaller counties are scheduling vaccination appointments by phone invitation rather than leaving it to residents to find appointments online.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Counties across Oregon are getting the COVID-19 vaccine to as many eligible people as possible. The methods used in smaller counties are often different than those used in larger metro areas.

Rather than ask residents to spend hours online trying to schedule a vaccine appointment, health workers in Tillamook County are calling residents to schedule appointments by phone. To get that phone call, residents just have to register with the county when their age group is eligible. They can register online or by calling 503-842-3914.

“Whenever somebody finds out they're getting the shot, they're actually pretty excited,” said Gordon McCraw, incident commander for Tillamook County's COVID-19 response. “If I could stress anything, it's of course that you need to get on that list so that we know that you're ready for the vaccine.”

McCraw said Tillamook County's biggest challenge has been getting short notice ahead of their weekly vaccine allotment, often learning on Friday how many doses they will get on Monday.

“That late in the week, it's kind of hard to set up for what you're going to do the next week when you're not certain just how much vaccine you're going to get,” said McCraw.

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According the Oregon Health Authority, 15.7% of Tillamook County residents have been vaccinated. In Hood River County, it's 16.6%.

“It feels good to finally be moving in a positive direction,” said Trish Elliott, director of the Hood River County Health Department.

Hood River County is sharing some of its vaccine allotment with primary care givers. Those physicians can then schedule appointments with their local patients as they become eligible for the vaccine.

“That's a win-win because it's a faster distribution than us just trying to do that by ourselves,” said Elliott.

Hood River County is also offering mass vaccination clinics with appointments that, like in Tillamook County, are scheduled by invitation. To register to get a vaccination appointment invitation, eligible residents of Hood River County can either call 541-387-6911 or send an email to covidvaccine@co.hood-river.or.us.

Elliott said one of Hood River County’s biggest victories has come in the form of 500 willing volunteers who are helping run vaccine clinics. She said their biggest challenge is one many other counties are experiencing — the desire to receive more vaccine doses.

“It feels like we've just been getting little cookies here and there of vaccine,” said Elliott. “So for us, the biggest challenge has been patiently waiting to get enough vaccine to feel like we're really working at our capacity.”

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