PORTLAND, Ore. – Stressing the importance and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines, the leader of Portland’s first African American Baptist church, Mt. Olivet, has opened a temporary vaccination clinic for his community.
The clinic is part of a neighborhood and community vaccination effort being led and funded by the two largest health care organizations in Oregon, Providence Health & Services and Kaiser Permanente. The health care systems have contracted with Medical Teams International to operate the community-based clinics, bringing vaccine equity into neighborhoods throughout Portland and the Willamette Valley.
“Providence is committed to achieving vaccine equity and doing so by partnering with and serving our culturally specific and communities of color,” said Joseph Ichter, Providence Oregon Community Health Investment director. “Our aim is towards low barrier, community-centered vaccination options, creating a more inclusive space for vaccinations through engaging community partners in scheduling and hosting.”
Providence has contracted with Medical Teams International to work with a half dozen local churches and organizations in Multnomah and Washington counties, with dozens of clinics scheduled throughout the summer at these sites. Providence expects to vaccinate approximately 500 people a week at the community clinics.
Local organization and religious leaders are reaching out to their community members to register people for vaccinations. Providence’s first clinic opened earlier this month at Mt. Olivet.
“When things happen in the community it’s typically the churches that are the first responders,” said Wendell Robinson, Mt. Olivet Baptist Church senior pastor. “So for us in the midst of a pandemic with the need to get the needle in the arm – to get people vaccinated – it makes perfect sense for the church, with the reach we have, to be the distribution point.”
Kaiser Permanente will launch its first mobile vaccine clinics in May, and is planning to deploy the MTI teams for 50 clinic days throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington this spring and summer. Kaiser Permanente will partner with employers and local community-based organizations that serve people facing some of the greatest barriers to getting vaccinated, including those who speak limited English.
Many of the groups most impacted by COVID have also faced challenges in getting vaccinated,” said Wendy Watson, Kaiser Permanente Northwest chief operating officer. “By working with Medical Teams International, we can help meet our underserved neighbors and communities where they are, at times and locations that are convenient for them.”
Combined, the Kaiser Permanente and Providence funded effort will serve an expected 6 thousand Oregonians who have had difficulty securing vaccinations over the course of 100 clinic days.
Medical Teams International’s expertise in mobile clinic operations allowed the program to begin serving community members soon after the health systems brought the idea forward.
“Medical Teams is privileged to serve our neighbors with COVID-19 vaccinations in partnership with Providence and Kaiser Permanente,” said Martha Newsome, Medical Teams president and chief executive officer. “We strongly believe that this community-driven approach will help reach and protect many people from the disease who might not otherwise have access to the vaccine.”
Depending on vaccine availability, initial plans call for the clinics to operate through the end of July; that could change based on the demand in the communities. All vaccines are by appointment only, with registration through the involved local churches and organizations.
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