Boosters now widely available

COVID-19 booster shots are now available to everyone over 18 who had their second dose at least six months prior, or two months after a Johnson and Johnson vaccine, after an FDA panel, followed by a CDC panel and the Western States Scientific Safety Review have recommended the dose.

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free, and the booster dose provides an extra layer of protection.

Booster doses are available every Wednesday in November and December (with the exceptions of the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas) at the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario.

Booster doses help people maintain strong immunity to disease longer. The first vaccine series builds up the immune system to make the antibodies needed to fight the disease. Over time, the immune response weakens. A booster dose stimulates the initial response and tends to result in higher antibody levels that help people maintain their immunity longer.

While booster doses are available to everyone age 18 and older, they are strongly recommended for people older than 50, people age 18 and older who live in long-term care facilities and anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The more people that choose to get vaccinated, the safer our communities will be for all of us,” said Rachel Banks, Public Health Director, Oregon Health Authority. “This review and subsequent approval of booster doses helps us loosen COVID-19’s grip on our communities and it will ultimately safe more lives.”

Vaccine clinic on tap for Saturday, Nov. 20

Malheur County Health Department, in cooperation with the Malheur County Incident Command Team, will host a drive-through vaccine clinic for people age 5 and older Saturday, Nov. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario, Oregon.

If you’re already vaccinated, but bring a person for their first COVID-19 vaccine, both of you will receive a $25 gift card.

All three COVID-19 vaccines will be available; first doses, second doses, third doses and boosters. To view the flyer, go here:

A second drive-through event will be held three weeks later, Dec. 11, at the same location, also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

There is no charge for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Bring a friend to get vaccinated, get a gift card

Saturday, Nov. 20, if a vaccinated person brings an unvaccinated friend or family member to the MCHD vaccine clinic at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse, both will receive a gift card after the vaccine is given. There is no limit to the number of people a vaccinated person can bring to the event.

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the airport firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario. Booster doses, first, second and third doses, and doses for children age 5-11 will be available.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is available to anyone ages 5 and older. If you’re unsure whether your child should receive a vaccine, talk to their pediatrician.

There is so much misinformation right now about COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC has put together some helpful information about how to find credible vaccine information. That can be found here.

The CDC also addresses some myths about the COVID-19 vaccines. For instance: “Are all events reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) caused by vaccination?” “No.” The full fact sheet can be found here.

COVID-19 vaccination clinic Thursday

A drive-through COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic will be held Thursday, Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 790 NW 9th St. in Ontario. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson boosters will be available, as well as all doses of all three vaccines, and vaccine recipients will receive a $25 gift card.

Enter through the southern entrance to the fairgrounds, off 9th Street, and follow signage and verbal instructions. There will be two lines for vaccines, in an effort to move the line more quickly, but don’t forget to allow for an observation period lasting 15 minutes after your injection.

Reminder: if you have already received a dose, or two doses of vaccine, please bring your vaccine card, or show a photo of your vaccine card, to save time.

For information about who qualifies for a booster dose, follow the links on this post.

This will be the last drive-through event at the fairgrounds this year, due to cooler temperatures.

When can you get your Moderna booster?

With the FDA’s announcement Wednesday that it has authorized boosters for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, the Health Department has been receiving questions about when those vaccine boosters will be available in Malheur County.

There are a few steps which need to take place prior to delivering boosters in Malheur County. This graphic shows some of the steps:

Wednesday’s action was Step 3, and the recommendation now goes to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The remaining steps could be completed in the next few weeks, so watch this space for updates and information.

Weekend peace of mind

If you have plans for the weekend, but want to make sure you won’t infect your friends with COVID-19, don’t forget the free testing and vaccine event happening today at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., in Ontario.

In partnership with the Oregon Health Authority, Malheur County’s ICS team, will be at the Fairgrounds until 4 p.m. today, and every Thursday, offering PCS tests with results emailed to the patient, and all three COVID-19 vaccines for those who wish to have one. Pfizer doses will be available to anyone age 12 and up (with parental consent required for those age 12-15). Pfizer third doses and booster doses will also be available to those who qualify. Details are here. Moderna doses will be available for people age 18 and up, and third doses are available for those who qualify. Booster doses are not yet approved for Moderna. J&J is available as a one-dose vaccine only at this time for ages 18+. $25 gift cards for every dose given. We hope to have Pfizer approved for ages 5+ late this month or early November, so stay tuned to malheurhealth.org for updates.

Leon is a Registered Nurse in the local Emergency Department. He sees patients come in with severe COVID-19 symptoms almost daily. He recently received his booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and said he made the decision to protect himself, his patients and his family, including a son who is too young to be vaccinated.

Please share these flyers with others, and help protect your loved ones from this virus.

Health Department offers all-day vaccine clinics in April

Angie Gerrard, RN/BSN

In response to expanding eligibility in Oregon, the Malheur County Health Department has lengthened the hours of its weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics starting this Thursday. Throughout the month of April, clinics will take place every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. First and second doses of Moderna vaccine will be available throughout.

“With eligibility opening up to most adults in Malheur County, we felt that an all-day clinic was the best approach. People can stop by at their convenience, whether it’s before or after work, at lunch or during a break in activities,” said MCHD Communicable Disease Coordinator Angie Gerrard, RN/BSN. “I know we’re all eager to put this pandemic behind us, and vaccination of a large percentage of the community is what will allow us to do that. We know these vaccines are safe and life-saving, and we want make the process of getting the vaccine as easy for people as possible.”

Once inside, the vaccine process takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to complete. The last few clinics have had little to no wait time to enter. To speed up the process, people can print and fill out the two required forms – Vaccine Screening & Consent English/Español and Pre-Vaccination Checklist English/Español – and bring them to the clinic. No other paperwork or documentation is required.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility opened last week to the following groups:

  • All adults 45-64 with underlying health conditions
  • Migrant and seasonal farm workers
  • Seafood and agricultural workers
  • Food processing workers
  • People living in low-income senior housing, senior congregate and independent living
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness
  • People currently displaced by wildfires
  • Wildland firefighters
  • Pregnant people 16 and older

On Monday, these groups will be added:

  • Frontline workers as defined by CDC
  • Individuals living in a multigenerational household
  • Adults 16–44 with one or more underlying health conditions with increased risk

For more information about each of these populations and a full list of eligible groups, click here for English, or here for Español.

OHA recommends continued use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

State health officials in Oregon recommend that local vaccination sites continue to administer COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna Lot 041L20A, after the state’s immunization program received advice from federal officials to continue to dispense the doses. Moderna Lot 041L20A has been associated with six adverse events at a single site in California. On Jan. 19, medical experts from the Western States Scientific Safety Review Committee evaluated the reports and are expected to follow up with an announcement of their analysis later today, reaffirming the CDC recommendations to continue to administer doses from this Moderna lot of vaccine.  

This vaccine lot consists of approximately one million doses of vaccines. In Oregon, 57,400 doses of Moderna Lot 041L20A have been distributed to 118 vaccination sites, including in Malheur County. As of Jan. 20, Oregon vaccination sites had administered 30,803 doses from the lot.

The Malheur County Health Department administered 104 doses of vaccine from Moderna Lot 041L20A during a vaccine POD (point of distribution) at the Ontario Municipal Airport firehouse on Jan. 13. There were no adverse events at the time of distribution, according to Erika Harmon, MCHD public information officer. Today’s vaccine POD is distributing doses from a different Moderna lot.

Oregon continues to monitor adverse events following administration of all COVID-19 vaccinations and is currently investigating two adverse events at separate sites linked to Moderna Lot 041L20A. All individuals reported to the Oregon Health Authority who experienced adverse events have recovered. Providers are required to submit reports of adverse events following vaccine administration to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS https://vaers.hhs.gov/).

“Adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare, but we’re paying close attention when they do occur. At this time, there’s no evidence that these events have been associated with any other vaccine site and I encourage every eligible Oregonian to get a vaccine as soon as vaccination is available to you.”

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer for Oregon

OHA received a communication from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which stated: “CDC is aware of a situation in California in which multiple potential adverse events were reported after vaccination with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine (Moderna Lot 041L20A) at one community vaccination clinic. We are working closely with the California Department of Public Health, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Moderna to investigate these potential adverse events. At this time CDC does NOT recommend health departments stop administering this lot or any lot of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.”

OHA encourages local vaccine administration sites to share information about lot numbers in response to questions from patients. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Committee will continue to monitor further reports and will consider any additional guidance states receive from the federal government.

Oregon health officials reiterated their expectations that local vaccination sites monitor patients for 15 minutes after vaccination, or 30 minutes in persons with a history of an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable therapy and persons with a history of anaphylaxis due to any cause, and have supplies on hand to respond to any adverse events.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer for Oregon said: “Vaccines, along with wearing masks and limiting indoor gatherings, are the safest, most effective and most reliable ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Adverse reactions to vaccines are extremely rare, but we’re paying close attention when they do occur. At this time, there’s no evidence that these events have been associated with any other vaccine site and I encourage every eligible Oregonian to get a vaccine as soon as vaccination is available to you.”