More than 930 residents and staff at adult family homes and long-term care facilities in Clark and Cowlitz counties received the COVID-19 vaccine last week thanks to a team of volunteers and extensive planning from Clark County Public Health.
Nearly 50 volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps and Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue administered the COVID-19 vaccines over a two-day period at select facilities in the area.
Clark County Public Health Senior Communications Specialist Marissa Armstrong said vaccination efforts were focused on smaller adult family and long-term care facilities that were not receiving help through the public-private partnership between the federal government and CVS and Walgreens.
“We were finding they weren’t getting vaccinated (or listed in the federal program), and we honed in on them being our first priority,” she said
Residents and staff at long-term care facilities have been eligible to be vaccinated since Phase 1a of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Armstrong said working to get vaccines to vulnerable citizens and essential staff who have not been enrolled in the federal program helps ensure all high risk groups “are able to access the vaccine” and “ensures equity in the distribution process.”
“We as a community want to protect everyone,” Armstrong said about the recent effort. “We have a duty to protect our most vulnerable populations.”
Armstrong said Clark County Public Health has been organizing the recent vaccination effort for about a month or so. Together, health departments from the three counties put in a request to receive help from a “Type 1 Incident Management Team (IMT),” the highest level of incident management team (a group of trained personnel that responds to an emergency). Currently, there are only 16 Type 1 IMTs operating in the United States. Once a team landed in Southwest Washington, the health department worked with the team to coordinate a plan for fixed and mobile vaccination sites, transport requirements, logistics planning and more, including the early February effort.
Armstrong said Clark County Public Health put in a request for 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines, and once the vaccines were available, the IMT was activated, vaccinating over 900 people over two days — nearly 19 people per hour. Armstrong said the effort was carried out efficiently and quickly thanks to planning by the health department. Each long-term care facility had all of the necessary paperwork completed before the vaccination team arrived. Each team was made up of two volunteers who set up, administered and monitored recipients before packing up and moving on to the next facility on the list.
“We are really happy to see the success of this, a two-day operation to reach more than 900 high risk individuals,” Armstrong said. “It was satisfying to see that happen.”
Public Health is working to plan another vaccination date so the recipients of the first dose of the vaccine can receive the second dose to receive the full inoculation.
Response from volunteers, staff and the public about the effort has been great, according to Armstrong.
“People were really happy to see our teams out there. We got a lot of great feedback,” she said. “The facilities and people were grateful and certainly appreciated all the hard work we did and the outcome made everything totally worth it.”
Along with the recent vaccination effort, Armstrong said the three health departments will continue to work with the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3 to create mobile vaccination sites throughout the region. However, vaccine supply continues to be a limiting factor in many efforts as the number of people eligible for the vaccine is higher than the amount of COVID-19 vaccinations available. According to data from the county, the number of first doses of the vaccine coming into Clark County ranges from 1,500 to 3,700 each week. Armstrong said once the supply increases, more mobile and fixed vaccination sites will become available. Along with this, as more groups become eligible for the vaccine, Armstrong expressed hope to “possibly bring the vaccine into work facilities (such as food processing facilities)” in an effort to vaccinate more people.
For additional information about COVID-19 vaccine eligibility and accessing vaccines, visit clark.wa.gov/public-health/covid-19-vaccine. Those interested in volunteering with Clark County Public Health can learn more at clark.wa.gov/public-health/emergency-response-volunteers.