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OHSU turns airport parking lot into COVID-19 vaccine administration site

Oregon Health & Science University teamed up with Portland International Airport and American Red Cross to create a drive-through vaccination site.

PORTLAND, Oregon — On a cold rainy day, it was a blessing to be able to stay in your car and get the COVID-19 vaccine at Portland International Airport. 

With air travel down, the red economy lot is closed to travelers. And it makes a great mass vaccination site.

“It's very exciting to be part of it and we're trying to do everything we can to get people vaccinated, it's the best way to get our community back on its feet,” said Dan Pippenger, chief operating officer of the Port of Portland.

Those being vaccinated Sunday were part of Phase 1a, which includes people with disabilities and their caregivers, both professionals and family members. All the eligible people were invited by Oregon Health & Science University.

“As the director of an institute that focuses on people with disabilities I am so thrilled that we're all coming together to make sure we're meeting the needs of this part of our community,” said Kurt Freeman director of the OHSU Institute on Development and Disability.

More than 150 people made the vaccination event happen. The American Red Cross had about 50 volunteers helping OHSU and PDX, on a four-day run.

“It brings tears to my eyes to think that we are helping to bring so many people this vaccination, helping them get healthy and bringing some sort of normalcy back into their lives,” said Mary Jane Rose, American Red Cross PDX site leader.

There are other vaccinations going out in the area. Major health care providers have joined forces at the Oregon Convention Center. Their current focus is on health care workers and those working or living in long-term senior centers.

Back at PDX, we talked to a family that got the vaccine, including a young woman who has autism, which puts her at greater risk.

Geneva's parents are her in-home caregivers-- so they got their shots too. All were relieved, after a long drive to get here.

“We live in Bend, actually and we drove over this morning to do this and it was totally worth it- that's how important it was to us,” said Sandy Gernhart.

Gernhart shared the importance of the vaccine and of getting many more protected by it. The parking lot will remain set up and ready to do just that, as more vaccine becomes available.

“By the end of today we will have vaccinated 3,300 people, our goal is to make this a mass vaccination site of 7,500 to 10,000 a day,” said Connie Amos, OHSU’s PDX site leader.

In southwest Washington, we saw no setup activity happening on Sunday, for a state-run mass vaccination center at the Clark County Fairgrounds. The goal was to open Monday, but now Clark County Public Health says the state department of health will open it on Tuesday.