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Oregon Awash In Vaccines, With Sites Offering Walk-In Appointments

The seemingly sudden ease of scheduling clinic appointments comes as Oregon, like the rest of the nation, sees a sharp drop in doses given.
Multnomah County worked to vaccinate people of color and people experiencing homelessness. | MOTOYA NAKAMURA/MULTNOMAH COUNTY
May 5, 2021

Slowing demand for COVID-19 vaccinations appears to have reached some of Oregon’s largest clinics, with numerous appointments available in the week ahead – including options for same-day shots or walk-in appointments.

Each of the state’s three major vaccination sites on Wednesday had slots open for booking. Operators of the Oregon Convention Center showed availability nearly every 15 minutes for appointments Thursday; the Oregon Fairgrounds in Salem had spots available every 15 minutes from 8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Thursday; and the clinic at Portland International Airport this weekend will take people without appointments.

The seemingly sudden ease of scheduling clinic appointments comes as Oregon, like the rest of the nation, sees a sharp drop in doses given. Oregon is averaging about 31,600 first or second shots a day, down 27% from the peak about three weeks ago.

State officials say they’ve heard that appointments are available at just about every location offering doses of the coronavirus vaccine, not just the large clinics.

But open appointments won’t discourage the Oregon Health Authority from taking all the vaccine it can get for now, even if it leads to a growing stockpile. President Biden has said states that don’t claim their full allotment from the federal government will see unordered doses redirected elsewhere – something Oregon doesn’t plan to let happen.

Erica Heartquist, a spokeswoman for the agency, said it plans to order its full share of doses next week.

The Oregon Health Authority is now “sending more vaccine to more distribution points and outpatient clinics across the state,” Heartquist said in an email.

Oregon Health & Science University has found demand slowing so much that it decided to offer the vaccine to people without appointments. For a combined 11 hours Saturday and Sunday, anybody eligible for the vaccine can drive up to the university’s clinic at the airport and get a shot.

The goal, an OHSU spokeswoman said, is to increase access to vaccines.

“We hope this event will reduce barriers to vaccination and help Oregonians who may find it difficult to make an appointment or commit to being vaccinated at a specific day or time,” Franny White said in an email.

The clinic was prompted, in part, by an apparent drop-off in demand. It’s taking much longer for OHSU’s available appointments to get filled, White said, with this weekend potentially being the first since the airport clinic opened in January to have slots that remain unscheduled.

At the moment, about 4,900 shots are available from Thursday to Monday, White said.

Oregon’s largest vaccination clinic, the Oregon Convention Center, is now allowing people to schedule shots directly from its website, without people first having to enter their name in a lottery system. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 150 appointments were available through May 13.

A spokeswoman for the clinic said the convention center could have given about 300 more doses a day this week, falling about that many filled appointments short of the 8,000 staff can do per day. The spokeswoman, Lisa Helderop, did not say how much of a decline in scheduled daily doses could lead the convention center to close shop.

“The All4Oregon Mass Vaccination Site at the Oregon Convention Center will be open as long as there’s need in the community,” Helderop said in an email.

Salem Health, which runs a massive clinic at the Oregon Fairgrounds, also has an abundance of appointments available. As of Wednesday afternoon, the fairgrounds had nearly 100 15-minute appointment slots available and was accepting drop-in vaccinations. The hospital system did not respond to questions sent by email.

As of Wednesday, nearly 1.9 million Oregonians have been partially or fully vaccinated. Everyone 16 and older has been eligible to be inoculated against COVID-19 since April 19.

-- Fedor Zarkhin

503-294-7674; [email protected]

This story was published by The Oregonian/OregonLive and is posted her through a content-sharing arrangement among a dozen Oregon media outlets.