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Amid Empty Roller Coasters, 1,200 Children Get COVID Vaccine Doses at Oaks Park

For much of a stormy weekend, a line of minivans snaked through the amusement park’s parking lots.

Maria Kieley was sick of sitting at home. On Sunday, she took her son to Oaks Park in Southeast Portland.

At the amusement park, they waited in line in front of the purple steel roller coaster, Adrenaline Peak. Then 5-year-old Liam rolled up his sleeve and received a dose of Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. Liam’s eyes went wide, but he stayed silent—trying to be brave for his younger siblings.

“I just want us to get back to normal life,” Maria said. “We haven’t traveled for two years.”

The Kieleys had company. For much of a stormy weekend, a line of minivans snaked through the parking lots of Oaks Park, next to a waving orange air dancer balloon and empty roller coasters, as families waited for their turn in one of three vaccination tents.

In just three days, staff from Sellwood Medical Clinic administered more than 1,200 shots at Portland’s only mass vaccination site for kids.

The amusement park clinic was a carnival-mirror reflection of the enormous vaccination machines at the Oregon Convention Center and Portland International Airport this spring. The last group of Oregonians getting vaccinated–children ages 5 to 11—were met by no logistical marvel. And their parents had to scramble for scarce appointments that could be as distant as the week of Thanksgiving.

That made the Sellwood Medical Clinic operation, launched Friday, a magnet. Appointments are booked out for at least the next 10 days.

Lisa Whitlock and Monique Pritchard, co-owners of the clinic, were on site to supervise the vaccination process on Sunday. “We started at 11 am on Friday,” Whitlock said. “We’ve been here on Saturday until 6:30 pm, and we’ll be here until 4 pm today.”

“We’ll get more doses from the Oregon Health Authority tomorrow.” Pritchard added, “and hopefully we can set up more appointments.”

The staff in one of the tents suddenly burst into song, serenading a child getting their first vaccination dose with a joyous rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Of the hundreds of kids passing through the tents Sunday, this was the first whose needle plunge came on their birthday.

“We’ve been waiting to do that all day,” Pritchard said with a smile.