Calling for shots
The pastel tones of the chalk marks on pavement at a Coleman Agriculture site Friday morning, April 9, would almost suggest something festive was about to occur.
But the off-blue circles with the number 6 inside made it clear the color patterns were designating safe distancing. The impromptu use of chalk was part of Legacy Health's mobile pop-up vaccination clinic, one of likely dozens the health-care providers will be conducting in rural Marion County over the coming weeks and months.
Coleman Agriculture of St. Paul had 102 people scheduled for vaccines that day. Legacy, which has clinics in Woodburn, Mount Angel, Silverton and Keizer, conducted its first of this series of pop-up vaccination clinics the day before at A&R Spada Farms, just east of St. Paul, where 75 vaccinations were given, primarily to agriculture workers.
Farm workers and their families from around the county will be able schedule for the inoculations. The outreach is part of Legacy's effort to get the vaccines to where they are needed the most.
"Persons of Hispanic ethnicity continue to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19: they account for 13% of Oregon's population but 34% of cases of known ethnicity reported to date," according to Oregon Health Authority's April 7 weekly report.
But there is good news:
"This proportion has been falling in recent months: during February, 23% of cases of known ethnicity have been among Hispanics, and since the beginning of March 18%."
The drop may be due, in part, to these types of concentrated efforts. Legacy spokeswoman Kristin Whitney cited an April 5 report from Kaiser Family Foundation noting that only 6% of Oregon's Hispanic population have received vaccines to date, reinforcing the importance of the rural pop-up outreach.
Interim Vice President of Population Health at Legacy Nick Kashey is the attending physician at the pop-up vaccination clinics. He said health care providers have had this in their vision for some time, an "equity lens," as he described it, to get the shots to vulnerable populations when they become available, in this case to farm workers and their family members.
"We feel like we are making an impact where we need it the most," Kashey said. "It's some of the most rewarding work I have ever done."
Among the obstacles for many agriculture-employed Hispanics is distance from vaccination sites and a hesitancy to take time off work. The clinic resolves both.
Coleman Agriculture President Dave Henze said last year they also had COVID-19 testing events. He said one person out of several hundred, a migrant, did test positive. They were able to isolate that person and keep the virus from spreading to his family and other workers.
"We have some of our workers coming (to the clinic) and some are coming from other farms in the area," Henze said Friday. "Our number one concern is the safety of our employees, but we also have to work — crops don't wait to grow."
Kashey said Marion County Health helps Legacy with the clinic coordination and attaining the necessary supplies. Legacy aims to conduct two to three pop-up vaccination clinics per week, provided the supplies are available, with a goal of vaccinating thousands in the coming months.
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