Janet Woodside, an occupational health nurse who works for Portland Fire & Rescue, had 17.5 hours to get ready for the arrival of 1,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
"I didn't expect a lot of notice," Woodside says, "but it would have been nice to know sooner when the vaccines were coming."
The tight time frame caused a scramble at the fire bureau, whose primary function these days is emergency medical response. The short notice may go some way toward explaining why, according to Bloomberg, Oregon ranks among the lowest five states for percentage of vaccine doses administered so far.
OHA did not respond to a request for comment.
In fact, fire bureau officials say, they would have received even shorter notice if not for a coincidence. Woodside, a 20-year fire bureau veteran, says she happened to be chatting with a contact at American Medical Response late in the afternoon of Dec. 29, when the AMR staffer mentioned the company had gotten notification through an Oregon Health Authority computer system that its vaccine allocation was on the way. Woodside decided she'd better check the system also.
When she logged on, a message told her to be ready. "I was ecstatic," she says.
The doses arrived in a Federal Express box at 10:30 the next morning.
The fire bureau applied for vaccines Dec. 8 and put a plan in place to hold a "truck rodeo" that would cycle fire engines and trucks through the bureau's training center on Northeast 122nd Avenue to allow for inoculations while maintaining required staffing at stations around the city.
Woodside says that about 80 to 90 percent of the firefighters on duty got the shots—about 350 the first day and half that many the second. (Those who declined, she says, expressed concerns about the lack of research on the long-term effects of the vaccine. See page 10.) When the bureau is finished inoculating its personnel, it will share the remainder with the Portland Police Bureau and 911 operators.
Portland Fire & Rescue is a hierarchical organization with 140 paramedics who can administer shots—and yet it was still a logistical challenge to deal with the vaccinations of its own members.
Woodside says she's seen reports on Oregon's challenges in getting people vaccinated and wonders if a little more time and direction from OHA would help, particularly when the vaccine begins to flow to the general public.
"It's an arduous process to meet all the requirements and get everything ready," Woodside says. "I think more assistance would be good."