NEXT DAY UPDATE: BAD NEWS. My wife just spoke with an over 65 friend who, along with her husband, were hoping to get a Covid shot at the Fairgrounds today, Friday. She was told that they were turned away, likely because of what Governor Brown announced this morning about the state not getting additional vaccine doses from the federal government as promised. Looks like another screw-up from the Trump administration, among many others.
It's been an interesting 24 hours, Covid-wise.
Last night I wrote a blog post, Salem Health is allowing people to get "extra doses" of Covid vaccine, where I argued that it was unfair of Salem Health to say on their Covid vaccine web page that only people in the initial 1a group (health care providers and nursing home residents/staff, basically) could be immunized at their Fairgrounds clinic, while allowing people to get shots on a drop-in basis if they showed up at the clinic.
This afternoon my wife and I got our first shot, Pfizer variety, at the clinic. So am I a hypocrite?
Not really. In the morning I perused my Facebook feed and saw that more people were talking about getting immunized at the Salem Health clinic even though they weren't in the 1a group. A few said that appointments can be scheduled through Salem Health's MyChart.
So that got me to thinking that given our age, early 70s, and health status, my wife has asthma and I have a bladder problem that would be tough to deal with if I got a bad case of Covid, it made sense to try to get immunized regardless of how fair it would be. Here's how today went for us. As you can read below, others have had a different experience when they went to the clinic to get the vaccine.
We got to the Fairgrounds site at about 1:50 pm. You enter via Silverton Road. There was a long line of cars in front of us. But the line moved along at a steady slow pace. It took us about half an hour to get to the place where someone talks to you while you're in the car.
Laurel was driving. The person asked us if we were health care workers. Laurel said, "No, but we have appointments through MyChart; we're over 70 and have pre-existing conditions." Those words earned us an "OK, you're good to go; turn left up ahead." Turning right meant you were leaving the Fairgrounds because you weren't accepted for an immunization.
Now, what's rather strange is that a friend texted me later in the day.
They said that they'd also gone to the clinic in the afternoon today. The couple told the screener that they had MyChart appointments and were over 65. They were turned away. This points to a certain unfairness, since seemingly the only difference between them and us was that we'd mentioned pre-existing conditions.
At any rate, after getting the go-ahead to be immunized we parked and walked into the Jackman Long building housing the clinic after having our temperature checked via a forehead thermometer.
I was instantly impressed with how efficient, friendly, and professional everybody working there was.
We were pointed down a MyChart path, since we didn't need to fill out any paperwork, having handled that online. So if you have a MyChart account, click on the Menu with the three bars in the upper left corner, choosing "Covid Vaccination Clinic." The next steps are straightforward.
Laurel and I were given a card that said we got the first Pfizer dose on January 14 and needed to return to get the second dose on February 4. Card in hand, we then joined a line of people waiting to be immunized. Photos were taken to mark the happy occasion.
It didn't take long to reach the end of the line. A staffer apologized for a short delay in the immunization process which lasted less than five minutes. Dr. Ralph Yates, the Chief Medical Officer of Salem Health, was at the head of the line checking cards. Yates saw me a few times early in 2020 about my sciatica problem.
I told him that I was his sciatica success story, being much improved now. I thanked him for assuring me that I was going to get better, which meant a lot to me when I was despairing that the pain wouldn't go away, Then I thanked him for the marvelous immunization clinic Salem Health was putting on. Yates said that no other county is doing something like this (many more should), and that he was proud no vaccine doses have gone to waste.
We then were directed to tables with an open shot-giver.
Here's a photo of Laurel finishing up with the person who immunized her. The shot was virtually painless, though the needle has to remain in your arm for 10 seconds, which was no big deal.
We then waited in another area for 15 minutes to make sure we didn't have an allergic reaction to the shot. I spent the time texting my daughter and a friend about how we'd just gotten our first Covid immunization. The whole process took shout 90 minutes, including the time in our car.
In case anybody is worried about contacting Covid by going to this immunization clinic, rest assured that the Fairgrounds building is so large, there's plenty of room to socially distance. Naturally everybody wore a mask.
After we were done, my overwhelming feeling was gratitude for everybody who is working hard to keep the Salem Health clinic going until everybody in Marion County who wants the vaccine can be immunized. This includes the National Guard troops who were much in evidence at the clinic.
I also have been feeling a huge relief that my wife and I got our first shots.
For about eleven months Covid has been an oppressive weight on everybody's mind. There's no escaping the reality of the pandemic, though unfortunately some people try to deny the truth of it. I knew I'd feel good after getting immunized. What I didn't know was how good.
So I have very little to criticize about the immunization clinic.
As noted in my first post, I still hope that Salem Health will be more transparent about who, exactly, can get a shot. There's clearly a difference between the overt policy on the Salem Health Covid Vaccine web page that says only people who live in Marion County and are part of the 1a group can be immunized, and the actual policy of allowing people in the 1b group to get the vaccine.
Maybe there is a good reason for this. Sometimes rules deserve to be broken, because the rule is too rigid. That could be at play in this case.
However, on January 23 the 1b group will join 1a as officially eligible to be immunized in Oregon -- seniors 65+, teachers, other school staff. Will Salem Health then allow people in the next highest priority group, like store clerks or younger people with underlying conditions, to be immunized? I'm worried that this will create confusion and perhaps even some reluctance to be immunized if the process is viewed as unfair.
Unfair or not, I'm really happy that Laurel and I went to the clinic today.
I think you described it pretty well. The only really unconscionable thing would be if available doses were thrown away for immediate lack people to receive them. It’s right to prioritize, to the degree that it can be done without slowing down the overall effort to get most of the population immunized. Faster is better.
Down the road, there will probably be a more important problem with those who refuse to be vaccinated. What incentives will be appropriate? Can employers require their employees to be vaccinated? Can service agencies require that their clients be vaccinated? What about businesses like restaurants and salons? I’d feel a lot better going to a movie theater if I know that it requires customers and employees to be vaccinated. Heck, I’d even be willing to pay a little more for that!
Posted by: Mike | January 16, 2021 at 09:01 AM
I appreciate your honesty. You lucked out, and I’m glad you’re protected, but it was shady. What if everyone did what you did - just rush to the fairgrounds? You played by your own rules.
Posted by: stan | January 16, 2021 at 10:26 AM
...and what role did your middle-class white privilege play? How much more likely would a brown or black person get away with what you did? Even to get in line, knowingly when it’s not your turn, is a level of impudence that likely originated from your privilege.
Posted by: stan | January 16, 2021 at 10:41 AM
I have a black friend who went to the fairgrounds and got a vaccination last week, and she was only 48 years old with no health problems. Don’t think your comment holds up.
Posted by: Carole Smith | January 17, 2021 at 06:23 PM
I’m glad your friend got it. My comment was based on the undeniable fact that blacks on average receive poorer healthcare and have poorer health outcomes than whites even when accounting for social class.
Blacks are also disproportionately suffering from the coronavirus, so if race winds up not mattering in receiving vaccines, I’m happy to be wrong.
So maybe this explains it: Perhaps people who went to the fairgrounds knowing that it wasn’t their turn but hoping to get a vaccine anyway just think they’re more special than others.
And what are the chances that a white person, reading this white dude’s blog, and who lives in Salem has a black friend!!! ;) Perhaps not so unlikely it seems.
Posted by: Stan | January 19, 2021 at 09:30 PM
Seems pretty unethical to me.
Posted by: Laura | January 23, 2021 at 10:47 AM