Kaiser Permanente, Providence, Legacy Health and Oregon Health & Science University are pooling their COVID-19 vaccine doses and staff to launch what they are calling a mega clinic at the Oregon Convention Center in Northeast Portland.
“The most efficient way to deliver this vaccine is not in many small sites, but in larger mass vaccination sites,” said Wendy Watson, chief operating officer for Kaiser Permanente Northwest.
Watson said the need to vaccinate the entire state population as fast as possible makes mass vaccination sites a necessity. Hospital campuses don’t have enough parking, indoor space or staff to accommodate the number of people getting vaccinated on top of their regular flow of patients.
The plan and partnership is a work in progress, and many of the details have yet to be finalized, including how people eligible to receive the vaccine can sign up for appointments.
Kaiser’s goal is to launch the Oregon Convention Center vaccination clinic next week, initially on a smaller scale.
“We’ll be ramping up the supply of appointments to be vaccinated in alignment with the supply of vaccine we get,” Watson said.
This week, the federal government announced it would release all available doses of the vaccine instead of holding some back for second doses. Gov. Kate Brown said she expects those additional doses will begin arriving in Oregon on Jan. 23.
Starting on that day, Brown is opening up vaccination eligibility to two new groups: people 65 and older, and K-12 educators and childcare providers, though it will be weeks or longer before the state has enough vaccine to offer doses to everyone who will qualify.
The launch of a mass vaccination site in Multnomah County, to serve the Portland metro area, will be a key part of a broader statewide effort to ramp up vaccine distribution in anticipation of more doses -- and more demand.
Kaiser will also be partnering with Salem Health to support the vaccination clinic at the Oregon Fairgrounds, and is working with health systems in Clark County, Washington, to plan for a mass vaccination clinic site there.
Watson said the crux of standing up more efficient mass vaccination clinics is for health systems to receive a larger, more consistent supply of the vaccine from the federal government and vaccine manufactures.
“As of right now we hear more doses are coming, but we haven’t actually seen a change in our allocation,” she said.
Kaiser is hosting a test run clinic at one of its medical offices this weekend, with a goal of vaccinating around 3,000 people. OHSU held a drive-through clinic at the convention center last weekend, and vaccinated more than 2,000 home care workers and first responders.
In the first few weeks since vaccines became available, Oregon has lagged other states and its own health expert’s expectations for the speed of the rollout. Brown demanded that public health officials get the state up to 12,000 doses administered a day, a goal the state said it achieved on Thursday.