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What to expect at Portland's mass vaccination centers

A fast and efficient experience getting the Covid shot if you have your invite and ID.

PORTLAND, Oregon — With huge new groups of Oregonians eligible for the COVID vaccine, officials want to remind everyone to bring their ID. If you are going to the Oregon Convention Center or the Portland Airport drive-thru location, bring your appointment confirmation either printed out or on your phone. It will save you time. And, as always, don't forget your mask.

Oregon Convention Center

If you are going to the Convention Center you will find free parking in the center’s garage. Those with mobility issues will want to bypass the first open spots near the garage entrance and try to find a space near the elevator doors.

From there you pretty much follow the crowds. The mass vaccination site is very well run with lots of people to help answer your questions or direct your path.

If you have health issues that may make your injection more of an adventure than you would like,  you will be able to tell one of the screeners when you check-in and can get your shot in a separate room monitored by doctors and nurses.

Even though the Convention Center vaccination effort is giving shots to 7,000 people a day. No known cases of COVID have been caught or spread there, which is remarkable.

OHSU Drive-thru site

If you are going to the OHSU drive-through site in the Red Lot of long-term parking at the Portland airport, the first bit of advice I’d offer is to take the road on the left when it forks. Driving toward the airport on Airport Way you will see a large electronic reader board telling you to take the next exit for the vaccination event.

It’s the same exit as Cascade Station. You want to stay in the far left lane and go to long-term parking. If you stay to the right you will loop up and over Airport Way and find yourself on the wrong side of the road, as I did.

It’s easy enough to get back on track—just turn around and follow the signs.

OHSU’s been running the Red Lot drive-thru vaccination center for months now and they’ve got it figured out.

You will first stop at a screening desk where they will ask if you have an appointment then wave you on.

The next stop, multiple lanes holding two or three cars, each inside a large white registration tent. This is where you hand over your bar code from the invite. It's scanned and all your information is loaded, and you are confirmed. You will also get your second appointment time and date and the card that holds your vaccination information.

The next step is a long and winding drive down to the end of the red long-term lot and around to the left where you drive back past the registration tent and then farther on to multiple rows of vaccination tents on your left. Each tent again holds two or three cars.

This is where you will get your shot.

You will be told which brand of vaccine you are getting, asked if you have any COVID symptoms, asked if you have any questions and asked in which shoulder you would like the shot.

The actual injection is quick and mostly painless.

The vaccinator will ask for your vaccination card and put a small sticker on it which holds the brand and lot number of your vaccination.

They next write on a piece of laminated paper the time of day you will be released from the waiting area, typically 15 minutes after the shot but longer if you have health issues that raise concerns.

The laminated paper is tucked under your windshield wiper and you are directed out into another part of the parking lot where you form a column of maybe 20 or 30 vehicles. And then you wait. Workers wander up and down the row, reminding people to turn off their car engine, asking if they feel okay and generally sharing the relief and good vibe of the moment.

There are small containers of orange juice for those who feel woozy after the injection but most people are just fine.

And if you are wondering how they will get your car out of the row when your 15-minutes are up, they won’t. You are now part of a larger unit. The clock on the 15-minutes does not actually start until the last car in your row settles in.

Consider it an extra free moment or two to consider what we’ve all been through this past year and how you are doing your part to end a historic pandemic.

When the time is up, the workers again walk by and tell you to start your engine. Moments later, you roll out with the rest of your vaccinated car column to return to the world, a bit, or a lot, more protected than when you arrived.