County Health Department sponsors free flu clinic for uninsured adults

October 1, 2014

Adriana Larraga and community health specialist Marcos Reyes (right) at a Multnomah County-sponsored flu clinic.

“Adriana Larraga!” Marcos Reyes calls out and looks down the hall of Earl Boyles Elementary.

“That’s me,” Larraga says and walks up to the foldout table, where Reyes, a Multnomah County Health Department community health specialist, has laid out information packets and forms for new patients.

“We have two vaccines today,” Reyes says in Spanish. He and Larraga, an uninsured mother of two, discuss the benefits and risks of the vaccines for flu and Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis).

The Saturday morning clinic was the first of four free flu clinics being sponsored by the Health Department and hosted by community groups – this time it’s Earl Boyles and Portland nonprofit Children’s Institute. The clinics are staffed by Multnomah County’s Health Reserve Corps. And because the morning  is cool and dry, volunteers hope to see as many as 70 uninsured adults.

Larraga volunteers with the school’s parent group and said she learned about the clinic through flyers posted at the school and in a the weekly bulletin sent out electronically in English and Spanish. She and other Spanish-speaking parents reached out to other immigrant  families that hesitated at the offer of a free vaccine. They assured the parents this program is free and doesn’t require identification or proof of insurance.

“There’s always this fear,” Larraga says. “Even people with papers, there’s a fear.”

Larraga’s fear, however, is one of needles. When Cindy Jerde, a nurse with Legacy Health and volunteer with the Health Reserve Corps swabs her arm with disinfectant, Larraga squeezes shut her eyes. Beads of sweat appear across the bridge of her nose. Her fourth grade son holds her hand.

The prick – first one, then a second -- is quick. Larraga issues a  “whew” through pursed lips.  She smiles and thanks Jerde.

“Folks are really grateful,” Jerde says later. “Even when they’re scared, they’re incredibly gracious.”

Outside in the courtyard school volunteers weed and rake, shovel and push wheelbarrows, preparing the space for fall gardening classes through the school’s SUN program. The program site manager, Megan Gabriel, walks down the hall in her tennis shoes and shorts, then spots a family from her program that came for the vaccine clinic.

“Hey! How are you?” she asks, as she hugs the mother. “How have you been?”

“Good,” the woman replies. “I got a new job.” They talk about her position as housekeeper at a retirement home, then the woman turns her attention to outreach worker Reyes.

“Español?”  he asks.

“Sí,” she says and smiles.

Reyes came to Oregon from Mazatlan, Mexico in 1997. He knows what a difference it can make when  someone says “hello” in a familiar language.

“When I got here I could understand maybe 30 percent of what people said in English. It was really hard. It’s frustrating. You feel incapable,” he says. “It’s sad to see someone who was so proud somewhere else come here and have to rely on other people. Then you say ‘hola’ and you see that smile. It’s great.”

Upcoming flu clinic dates 

Friday, Oct. 3, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Consulado de México, 1305 S.W. 12th Ave., Portland 

Saturday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: IRCO, 10301 N.E.Glisan St., Portland 

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 1:30 p.m to 4 p.m.:  Blanchet House, 310 N.W. Glisan St, Portland