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'As someone with a long career in public service, I know what vaccines mean to our community.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Jeff BarkerDo you remember where you were when you heard that the first COVID-19 vaccine was approved?

Like the space launch and other national milestones, that moment will go down in history.

Scientists took on an incredible challenge to develop and test a vaccine for a novel virus, a process that usually takes more than a decade. They achieved success in less than a year, putting us in the position to end a deadly pandemic.

As someone with a long career in public service, I know what vaccines mean to our community.

COVID-19 has been hard on all of us. Essential workers have risked their health to keep our economy running. Children have had to learn in new ways online. Families haven't been gathered for weddings and holidays as they usually would. We're all feeling isolated.

The crisis has also exposed the inequities in our healthcare system. People of color and disadvantaged populations have suffered disproportionately. It will be especially important to efficiently bring vaccinations to these communities.

The mission will require all hands on deck. The state has its plan for prioritizing vaccine schedules to put frontline healthcare workers and the most vulnerable patients first. Providers are enrolling in the Immunization Program to help get shots in the arms of Oregonians as quickly as possible. And members of our community are following the latest updates so they can be immunized as soon as they are eligible to help break the chain of potential viral transmission.

If you need more information about vaccine safety or when and where to schedule your vaccination, visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov.

There are so many health care heroes to recognize in this effort, but one group I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere are the distributors. They are a vital link between the pharmaceutical companies producing vaccines and the pharmacies, doctors' offices, hospitals, and other community centers where they are being administered.

It's nearly impossible to comprehend the scale of this operation. As a nation of over 325 million people, each of whom needs two doses of vaccine to develop strong immunity, we require some 600 million doses delivered to sites across the country. Providers also need needles, alcohol wipes and other supplies. All of this must be disseminated rapidly so we can save more lives. And the process must be seamless, so there is enough vaccine on hand to inoculate patients precisely when they're scheduled to receive it.

Making things more difficult, the current vaccines are extremely sensitive. They must remain at a certain temperature until just before the shots are given. This is no "standard shipping" from Amazon scenario and requires specialist companies to handle the logistics. They've stepped up.

Just as immense quantities of flu shots are delivered and given each year and H1N1 immunization was accelerated to fight back against that deadly threat, Oregon can count on COVID-19 vaccines making it to everyone in short order. As this happens and we are freed from COVID-19 restrictions, let's remember to recognize the long hours and hard work it will take on the part of drugmakers, distributors, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals to create, deliver and administer these protective vaccines, which will give so many of us our normal lives back.

Jeff Barker is a retired police officer and state

representative from House District 28, including

Aloha and parts of Beaverton, in the Oregon House

of Representatives from 2003 to 2021.


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