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Large mobile vaccination unit opens in Beaverton to close equity gap

As some of the area's biggest mass vaccination sites close, one hosted by Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center ramps up to make the vaccine more accessible.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center is working to close the life-threatening equity gap that exists for minorities when it comes to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the state's largest vaccination sits close, thousands of Oregonians are still left vulnerable to the virus; many are from communities the pandemic took its heaviest toll on.

"There are still disparities in the community with our Latinx population," Virginia Garcia CEO Gil Muñoz said, "We need to encourage them to come in and receive the vaccine."

To close that gap, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center, Washington County and FEMA teamed up to set up a huge site in Beaverton.

"The Latinx community has only about a 40% vaccination rate, where the vast majority of Oregon is closing in on 70%. We want to close that gap," Oregon Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward said.

On Friday, the agencies set up a mobile vaccination unit on the Tektronix campus in the heart of Beaverton - a place that's easier than some of the mass vaccination sites for many to get to.

"What really helps is to make the vaccine available and accessible and come to the community. So we are here in a large parking lot in Tektronix," said Congresswoman Bonamici.

"We have a lot of space on our campus to support this vaccination drive," Tektronix global marketing vice president Kristi Flores said, "We also are closely located to public transportation and close to a district that has a lower vaccination rate."

Both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are offered.

People don't need an appointment and can drive, walk, bike or take public transportation to the event. People 12 and older can drop by and get a shot there for the next two weeks, through July 2.

The site is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. It's open Wednesday through Friday after work from 4 to 8 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"Virginia Garcia has vaccinated over 21,000 people in the community thus far. We know there are still many people who need the vaccine who have yet to come in because their work hours aren't accessible for coming into the clinic," Muñoz said.

Virginia Garcia and FEMA are staffing the unit and can give up to 500 shots a day.

It's free and you don't need to show an ID or proof of insurance. Translators are on-site and people can find information in different languages.

"At first, having big mass vaccination sites at the Oregon Convention Center and the airport was really important. Now what's important is we get vaccinations to where the people are," Steiner Hayward said.

Congresswoman Bonamici praised the operation, saying she was impressed.

"When we see people coming together like this and making a difference in people's lives, that's truly something to celebrate," Bonamici said.

After this two-week event, the vaccination unit will return to Tektronix on July 20 to give second doses. That will also provide another opportunity for people who didn't receive the vaccine in June.

RELATED: 'This is unacceptable': Latinx community leaders criticize Oregon over inequitable vaccine rollout

RELATED: Oregon's sickest COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated

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