Vaccines and boosters make a difference

Who in Oregon is testing positive for COVID-19? The majority are unvaccinated, according to Oregon Health Authority data. In the week between Jan. 9 and Jan. 15, unvaccinated people were eight times more likely than vaccinated people to test positive for COVID-19. Even when breakthrough cases do occur, they tend to be mild and less likely to result in hospitalization. In Malheur County, which has seen 6,969 total cases, 480, or 6.9%, have been breakthrough cases.

The data are clear: get vaccinated, get boosted. For more information on breakthrough cases in Oregon, read our latest Breakthrough Report. For a COVID-19 vaccine or booster dose, come to the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., Ontario, any Wednesday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for our walk-in clinic, or call our office at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Children as young as 12 authorized to receive Pfizer booster

On Jan. 6, the Western States Scientific Review Workgroup joined the CDC in recommending new guidelines for the Pfizer vaccine.

The new guidance, which takes effect in Oregon immediately, says:

  • Children ages 12-15 can now get a Pfizer booster at least five months after their second dose.
  • The wait time for a booster dose has been shortened to at least five months after receiving their initial series of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Immunocompromised children ages 5-11 can now receive a third primary series dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

It’s more important than ever to get boosted. It is vital in protecting you against severe cases of COVID-19, especially with the Omicron variant spreading so quickly. With just the primary series of vaccines, you’re only 35% protected from Omicron. With a booster, that protection level jumps up to 75%. Boosters take only two to three days to strengthen your immune response.

Where to get a COVID-19 booster

  • if you have a doctor, ask them first
  • visit the Malheur County Health Department any Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no appointment needed)
  • Contact a local pharmacy to schedule an appointment
  • Contact a local medical clinic to schedule an appointment
  • Text ORCOVID to 898211 (English and Spanish) or email ORCOVID@211info.org
  • Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155, toll-free, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mountain Time) daily, including holidays
  • Or you can use the vaccine locator tool on OHA’s website, found here.

Walk-in Wednesday

Wednesdays are Walk-in Wednesday at the Malheur County Health Department. Walk in between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. (we close from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch) for COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, flu vaccines, and/or any childhood vaccines your children might need.

Immunizations are available from birth through adulthood to protect against many diseases and preventable outbreaks. Vaccines are required by law for children in attendance at public and private schools, preschools and child care facilities, as well as Head Start programs in Oregon. If your child needs to have a vaccine in order to be up to date before “school exclusion day,” bring them to the Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario.

No one is turned away because of inability to pay.

For more information, call our office at 541-889-7279.

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Case counts rising again

COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Malheur County, and the Health Department urges everyone to be mindful of others as we go about our business, by wearing masks in indoor public spaces, frequent handwashing, get tested at the first sign of symptoms and get vaccinated.

To be tested for COVID-19, contact your primary care physician, your local clinic or pharmacy, or you may be able to find an at-home test in a pharmacy – contact your local pharmacy to ask about availability. Testing sites may be found at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-oha-covid-19-testing and vaccine sites may be found at https://getvaccinated.oregon.gov. If you have a child who attends a Malheur County school and has symptoms or was exposed to the positive case at school, contact their school, which may have free testing available.

COVID-19 vaccinations are available at local physician’s offices and clinics, pharmacies, the Health Department, and at various vaccine events throughout the county. To stay up-to-date on vaccine events, keep an eye on the MCHD calendar of events.

Wednesday vaccination clinics continue into new year, extended hours ends this week

Parents who want to get kids vaccinated before they return to school in the new year are encouraged to bring the child to the Malheur County Health Department 1108 SW 4th St., clinic in Ontario, Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. This will be the last of our extended hours clinics.

Beginning next week, every Wednesday will see walk-in vaccination clinics from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Health Department. All childhood vaccines, and most adult vaccines will be available, including all doses of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Please call 541-889-7279 if you have questions.

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Vaccine clinic hours

The clinic at the Malheur County Health Department will have extended hours for one more Wednesday in 2021. Dec. 29, the clinic, at 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario will be open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. for walk-in vaccinations.

Beginning Jan. 5, the clinic will be open every Wednesday in 2022 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for walk-in vaccinations.

For more information, contact the Malheur County Health Department at 541-889-7279.

Three vaccination events coming soon

There are three COVID-19 vaccination events coming in the next few days in Malheur County – two in Nyssa and one in Vale.

Friday, Dec. 17, at Vale City Hall, 150 A St. E, Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living will host a vaccine clinic from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event will be for people 18 and older, and will feature all doses of Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines, as well as high and regular dose influenza vaccines and the flu mist. Flyers for the event are in English and Spanish.

Saturday, Dec. 18, COVID-19 vaccines will be given by Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living for people ages 5 and older at the Tex-Mex Express, 400 Thunderegg Blvd. in Nyssa from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. All three brands of vaccine will be available. Flyers for the event in English and Spanish.

Tuesday, Dec. 21, all three COVID-19 vaccines, as well as flu vaccines, will be available at the Nyssa Middle School, cafeteria, 101 S. 11th St., from 3-5 p.m. This event is hosted by the Malheur County Health Department, and is for anyone 5 and older. Look here for flyers in English and Spanish.

Rides to vaccine events can be accessed by calling 541-889-3119.

Pfizer boosters available for ages 16 to 17

Following the FDA, CDC and Western States Scientific Safety Review recommendation to expand Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccine eligibility to people 16-17 years who have completed their primary vaccination series, Malheur County Health Department will begin offering the boosters at the drive-through vaccine clinic Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 at the Ontario Airport firehouse from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Individuals ages 16 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine should receive a booster dose after at least six months.

A booster is a vaccine dose given to a person whose immune response from the primary vaccine series has waned over time. 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.

“The scientists, medical experts and health officials who reviewed studies on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines have determined that the benefits provided by a booster merit their use for this group,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and state epidemiologist.  “We already know that protection can wane over time, and the boosters will continue to provide younger Oregonians continued protection, just as boosters are doing for Oregonians 18 years and older.”

There are an estimated 100,000 Oregonians ages 16 and 17. Of this group, approximately 25,000 are now eligible for boosters following today’s approvals. Another 25,000 persons in this age group will be eligible by the end of this month, and up to 7,000 persons who are 16 and 17 years of age will become eligible for boosters through first part of 2022.

“This is another step in expanding the numbers of persons who are protected, as we continue to deal with the Delta variant in our communities and plan for the arrival of the Omicron variant, which is already found in more than a third of states,” said Sidelinger.

All COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. They are available throughout the state at pharmacies, health providers, Tribal clinics and community vaccination clinics.

More information can be found here.

It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, is a call to all Americans 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine if they have not already. Flu remains a significant public health concern, and this week will serve to remind people that there is still time to get a flu vaccine—the only vaccine that protects against flu—to prevent flu illness and potentially serious complications.

We get it to help #fightflu

What is the difference between COVID-19 and Influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

More information about can be found here.

The Malheur County Health Department will offer flu vaccines to people on a walk-in basis Wednesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the clinic, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, or by appointment. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Source: CDC.gov

How to celebrate safely with friends and family

As the holidays approach, many people are wondering whether it is safe to gather with family to celebrate. The Oregon Health Authority and Safe, Strong Oregon, have created this infographic to help answer some of your questions.

They offer additional information on how to stay safe at other times here.

If you or someone you love wants a COVID-19 or flu vaccination before the holidays, come to the Health Department clinic from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, Dec. 8, 15 and 29 at 1108 SW 4th St. in Ontario. No appointment needed just walk in. For the COVID-19 vaccine, come to the drive-through clinic Dec. 11 at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 3288 SW 4th Ave., in Ontario, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.