Former county commissioner says after 'extreme risk' announcement, we must redouble work to make vaccine accessible

Ken Humberston is a former Clackamas County commissione and submitted this guest opinion piece.

Ken Humberston is a former Clackamas County commissioner. COVID-19 relief is closer than it used to be, as the vaccine process continues to roll out, faster and faster. However, fear is mounting. New cases are on the rise in Oregon. Clackamas County returned to "extreme-risk" status. There is an urgent need to better serve all of our citizens including Oregon's people of color, and indigenous peoples who disproportionately have been impacted by the pandemic.

We must answer this alarm by redoubling efforts to make vaccines more accessible while remaining vigilant with proven safety protocols — wearing a mask and social distancing to contain the spread and keep our neighbors healthy.

Despite challenges, we are making progress. Vaccine production continues to increase, and in line with President Biden's eligibility directive, all Oregonians 16 and older can now be vaccinated. To help meet the expanded demand, Clackamas County has opened administration clinics, vaccinating thousands of people a day and ensuring our residents can easily access the vaccine.

With the U.S. expecting to have enough supply to vaccinate all Americans by the end of May, success depends in large part on how quickly we can distribute and administer doses. With a cohesive relationship between the health care supply chain and government, we continue to improve our vaccination process, making it more efficient and faster. It's critical that we continue to forge new partnerships with community organizations to make vaccine access and administration more equitable.

I've certainly gained a better appreciation for the complex health care supply chain and the countless people, businesses and community partners that make it work.

The continued heroic efforts of our frontline workers and health care providers has truly been inspiring. I also want to bring attention to the unsung businesses and heroes working behind the scenes to meet this unprecedented challenge. One of our local employers, McKesson, is playing a major role in vaccine distribution. A health care distributor, McKesson is one of the companies responsible for delivering medical supplies to our state, including vaccines, pharmaceuticals, bandages and medical equipment. In fact, McKesson was chosen by the federal government to be the centralized COVID-19 vaccine distributor for our nation.

Health care distributors have managed this all on top of their normal operations. Even at the height of COVID cases, distributors worked feverishly behind the scenes to avert and mitigate medical supply shortages across Oregon and Clackamas, helping providers care for patients and save lives. Most of these logistical efforts are taken for granted because they are so reliable, but the fact is they are playing an outsized role in helping keep our community safe.

We all want to return to normalcy. More vaccines and the widening eligibility mean we will get there. I encourage everyone to make a vaccine appointment. This is a safe and effective method to combat the coronavirus, save lives and fully reopen the economy.

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