CORVALLIS, Ore. – Getting a shot isn’t usually high on anyone’s list of fun things to do, but smiles, laughs and even high-fives (followed by hand sanitation) are common sights during weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics taking place at Oregon State University’s Reser Stadium.
Since late January, more than 19,400 people have been vaccinated during mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics, a joint effort led by Samaritan Health Services and Benton County in collaboration with Oregon State University.
“The adage ‘it takes a village’ definitely holds true with the mass vaccination clinics at Reser Stadium,” said Larissa Balzer, associate vice president of strategy & planning for Samaritan Health Services, which manages the clinics. “These clinics are not only a milestone in medicine, but a milestone in collaboration across a diversity of organizations including public health, a university, a health care system and hundreds of volunteers.
“We are proud to collaborate with Benton County and Oregon State University – in terms of staff time, volunteer hours, supplies, logistics and compassion – to operate these clinics. This is history in the making, and patients we vaccinate are grateful and appreciative, all of which brings a sense of excitement and fulfillment to the work of operating these clinics.”
The clinics have drawn anywhere from 400 to 1,900 patients a day receiving their first or second dose of the vaccine in the stadium’s covered, open-air concourse. Clinics are expected to continue for the foreseeable future, depending on the vaccine supply, county officials said.
So far, more than 9.500 volunteer hours have been logged during 14 clinics, which began on Jan. 26. It takes between 150 and 200 volunteers to staff each clinic.
“Mass vaccination clinics would not be the success that they are without the help of every volunteer that shows up every week, ready to serve their communities, rain or shine, and it’s truly inspiring to see,” said Bryan Lee, emergency manager for Benton County. “In fact, there are some volunteers that have been at Reser every week since we began our clinics in January.”
Volunteer tasks include driving golf carts to and from the parking lot for patients with mobility issues, helping patients navigate the check-in process, assisting medical staff with patient information, administering the vaccinations and monitoring patients after they receive vaccines for any signs of allergies or distress.
Erin Martin, web and integrative communication manager with university facilities at OSU, volunteered at a clinic in February.
“Connecting with the local community is important to me, and I really appreciate that I got the opportunity to do that,” Martin said. “The volunteers, staff and especially people receiving the vaccine were full of joy and excitement. The clinic was well run, safe and organized – and the sun even came out for a while and made everything feel a bit more hopeful.”
Mike Bamberger, emergency preparedness manager at OSU, said Reser Stadium is a great location to hold such a large community clinic.
“The biggest plus is that it is open air, which is great for reducing the potential of COVID cross-spreading,” Bamberger said. “Plus, it is the largest venue in Benton County and has the tables, chairs, and lane barriers to operate the clinic. It has a large parking lot and large number of parking spaces close to the entrance.”
Clinic organizers said there is much to be done before the first patient arrives for each clinic. This includes unloading supplies and preparing paperwork. The day of the clinics, volunteers and staff start setting up a few hours before patients arrive, arranging tables and signage and generally preparing for the day.
Once patients arrive, they are sorted according to medical and mobility needs and make their way to the vaccine area. After receiving their injections, patients sit in a waiting area for 15 to 30 minutes and are monitored until they can leave. Patients typically schedule their second shots before leaving.
Clinic organizers continually made adjustments during the early clinics, Bamberger said. Outside tents have been added to shelter people waiting in line. Pre-scheduled appointments have helped speed up the registration process and made the second-dose appointment process faster. Additionally, the number of vaccination stations has expanded, while maintaining physical distancing, as more vaccine doses have become available.
Future clinic dates will be based on vaccine supply and availability, and eligible patients must register for a slot. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been given out. Those interested in volunteering can register to serve at a future clinic at https://beav.es/JbW.