Which card will you choose?

At Tuesday’s drive-up COVID-19 testing and vaccination event, people who choose to be vaccinated can select from among several gift card options. Jolts and Juice, Burger West, Ogawa’s, Dutch Bros. and Albertsons cards, valued at $25 each, will be available to people who receive a vaccination at the event.

The testing and vaccination event is held at the Malheur County Fairground, 795 NW 9th St., Ontario, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday through the end of October.

According to information provided by the Oregon Health Authority, an average of 41 Malheur County residents are receiving vaccinations each day.

Are booster doses available? Not yet

Medical experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration Friday recommended that people age 65 and older, as well as those considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 who’ve been previously fully vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, should receive a booster dose to help maintain the effectiveness of their vaccines over time.

The booster dose should be given at least six months after the second dose was received, and the FDA is reviewing the recommendation to determine whether to add this use to the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

Booster doses have not been recommended for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is expected that federal officials will consider booster doses for people who’ve received these vaccines in coming weeks.

The recommendations from the meeting are just the first steps in the process. No boosters will be available to Oregonians until the remaining steps in the process are completed. Here is what’s next:

  • The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will review the FDA’s recommendation Sept. 22-23. The CDC Director then considers the ACIP recommendation and makes any official CDC recommendation for use of boosters. It is anticipated that ACIP will provide additional guidance on who is considered at high risk of severe COVID-19.
  • After FDA and CDC decisions, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup meets Sept. 24 to consider federal recommendations for implementation in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Once Western States issues a recommendation, the Oregon Health Authority will support implementation.

Booster doses are expected to be widely available through pharmacies, doctor’s offices and clinics, as COVID-19 vaccine is today.

For older adults and others living in skilled nursing facilities, their residences are equipped to provide booster doses once they are fully authorized.

Medical evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing COVID-19 associated hospitalizations and deaths. The boosters were recommended because there was some evidence to show that the immune response the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine produces to protect against COVID-19 disease could begin to wane many months after a person was first immunized, especially in older adults. As with other vaccines, a booster shot will strengthen the body’s ability to prevent disease from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Where can my family get tested?

Were you or a family member exposed to a COVID-19-positive patient? Do you have a fever, runny nose and cough and think it might be more than seasonal allergies? Free tests are offered every weekday by healthcare partners in the Treasure Valley. For free drive-up or walk-up rapid testing, go to one of these sites:

Monday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Valley Family Health Care Dental Clinic, 2327 SW 4th Ave., Ontario

Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., Ontario

Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Valley Family Health Care Dental Clinic, 2327 SW 4th Ave., Ontario

Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Mobile Access Clinic next to Jack In The Box, 1115 N. Whitley Dr., Fruitland

Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Mobile Access Clinic next to Ashley Furniture, 1418 West Park Plaza #2, Ontario

These sites will be available for the next four weeks, at a minimum, and everyone is encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity for testing.

BinaxNow test card

Gift cards available with vaccination

People who come to the Malheur County Incident Response System’s testing and vaccination clinic today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and receive a vaccine will be able to choose from a variety of $25 gift cards from local businesses, including coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores.

At last week’s event, 54 people received vaccinations, so there will be plenty of gift cards for everyone.

27,924 Gift Card Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock

Testing and vaccine clinic Tuesday at fairground

A COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinic will be held Tuesday, Sept. 14, and every Tuesday through the end of October, at the Malheur County Fairground, 795 NW 9th St., in Ontario. The clinic is from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Third doses will be available at the Fairground on Tuesdays to those who meet the qualifications listed below:

Questions and Answers About COVID-19 Vaccines - Vaccinate Your Family

People who want a negative test in order to travel can request that a letter be emailed to them, by adding that information to their consent form.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and, while breakthrough infections are possible, people who have been vaccinated are far less likely to become seriously ill or die from the virus.

More than 40 local health care providers have signed a letter about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, and encouraging residents to talk with them about the vaccine. Medical providers stand ready to answer any questions you might have.

What is the difference between a third dose and a booster dose?

A third dose is specifically for individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised and may not have built up an adequate protective immune response with their first series of vaccinations. Currently, the only authorized third doses are for the Moderna and Pfizer Comirnaty vaccines.

Graphic repeats information in post and features an illustration of a woman wearing a mask with bandaid on right shoulder and watch on right wrist.
If you are moderately to severely immunocompromised, you qualify for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Reach out to your health care provider or pharmacy, or come to one of Malheur County’s drive up testing and vaccination events on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St. in Ontario.

The recommendation is for immunocompromised individuals to receive a third dose of the same mRNA vaccine at least 28 days after receiving the second dose in the series (for individuals 18 years and older for Moderna and 12 years and older for Pfizer Comirnaty).

At this time, the CDC does not have enough data to suggest an additional dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would produce an enhanced immune response in an immunocompromised person.

A booster dose is for people whose immunity may be fading after they complete their first vaccination series. There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine authorized as a booster. 

Returning to campus? Tips on how to keep safe in shared living spaces

Some colleges and universities have already begun classes, and some have yet to begin. Treasure Valley Community College opens for fall term Sept. 27, and the Residence Hall opens Sept. 23. If you are a college student returning to campus, you may be looking for tips on how to keep safe in shared living spaces such as dorms or student apartments.

Your school should already have guidance to help ensure a learning environment that is low risk for spreading COVID-19. Following that guidance and the tips below can help you to stay safe:  

  • Make a plan to get vaccinated if you have not already. Vaccination against COVID-19 is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. 
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from people you do not live with. Avoid crowded indoor spaces like busy fitness centers or gathering areas.
  • Wear a mask or face covering in shared spaces with people that you do not live with or outdoors when you’re unable to stay 6 feet apart from them.  
  • Keep visitors to a minimum, just like you would at home. Visiting with others outdoors is lower risk than indoors.  
  • Don’t eat or drink from the same glass or dish as others.  
  • Don’t place personal items like toothbrushes on shared surfaces like sinks or counters. Put these items in a tote that you can carry to avoid touching the surface. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene. 
  • Stay home and isolate if you are sick.  

Attending college can mean being around many people. This can increase your risk of other vaccine-preventable diseases as well. Check with your health care provider to make sure you are up-to-date on all your vaccines.  

Deadline fast approaching for healthcare and school workers to be vaccinated

Oregon Administrative Rule 333-019-1010 requires healthcare workers to be fully vaccinated before Oct. 18, 2021, and OAR 333-019-0130 requires school employees and volunteers to be fully vaccinated by the same date. “Fully vaccinated” means having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of Johnson and Johnson vaccine, and waiting two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. For the FDA-approved Pfizer/N-Biotech vaccine, the first dose would need to be administered on or before Monday, Sept. 13 in order to reach “full vaccination” status by Oct. 18. For the Moderna vaccine, the first dose would have needed to be received by Monday, Sept. 6, in order to meet the Oct. 18 deadline. The single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine would need to be administered on or before Oct. 4 to reach “full vaccination” status by the Oct. 18 deadline.

Free drive-up testing and vaccination clinics are held every Tuesday through October at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., Ontario, Ore., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Local physician offices and pharmacies also offer the free vaccine. Contact your provider to schedule an appointment.

COVID-19 testing and vaccination event continues

Throughout September and October, the Malheur County Incident Command System will be hosting COVID-19 testing and vaccination events every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St. in Ontario. Two hundred seventy eight people were tested at the Aug. 31 event, with 30 Malheur County residents testing positive. For the week ending Aug. 22, Malheur County’s test positivity rate was 18.6 percent, which shows significant community spread. In order to reduce the test positivity rate, more people need to get tested.