November 4, 2021

As the region continues along a “rocky plateau” in the COVID-19 pandemic, Multnomah County’s Public Health Division and its federally qualified health center are preparing to launch vaccine clinics for children 5 and older, Public Health Director Jessica Guernsey and Primary Care Clinical Deputy Director Debbie Powers told Commissioners Thursday during a routine briefing on the pandemic.

“We are continuing to see a concerning level of cases,” Guernsey said. “But  we’re finally dipping back under 5 percent [test positivity] and hoping that trend continues.” 

Covid-19 vaccination rates, by race/ethnicity. 2021-11-04

About 81 percent of county residents 18 and older—and about 71 percent of all residents—have received at least one dose. Broken down by race and ethnicity in Multnomah county, those numbers are:

  • 99 percent for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders
  • 74 percent among Asian Americans
  • 63 percent of Black and African American residents
  • 67 percent among American Indian and Alaskan Natives
  • 59 percent among Latinx residents
  • 76 of White, nonhispanic residents

Public Health has received about 167,000 vaccine doses, and redistributed 143,000 of those to partner agencies. Public Health has directly hosted more than 350 clinics; 67 percent of doses went to people who identify as Black Indigenous and other people of color.

In the coming weeks Public Health will pivot its vaccine education and clinic efforts to focus on children ages 5-11. The move comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week approved emergency use authorization and recommended the vaccine for children 5 and older.  

Vaccine clinics for kids will roll out this week across the state. Unlike the few centralized mass vaccination clinics held for adults, the region will be able to offer the child vaccine through multiple access points, including pharmacies, pediatrician offices, federally qualified health centers, one large FEMA site in east Multnomah County, as well as through public health clinics. Those public health clinics will be hosted through WIC clinics in Northeast and East Portland.

“We have confidence in this vaccine,” Guernsey told Commissioners. Research showed the vaccine was safe, well tolerated and generated a robust antibody response in the more than 3,000 children in which it was initially tested, and the County will work with community-based organizations, culturally specific partners, the REACH program and schools in coming weeks to share in-depth information with families.

“We expect this to be a longer vaccination period. People have lots of questions and that’s completely understandable,” Guernsey said. “So those community engagement opportunities will probably be a little more in-depth.”

Multnomah County Health Centers have also been  providing vaccines to patients and the public. About 65 percent of people who received a vaccine through the health centers identified as BIPOC and about 38 percent of those visits were facilitated with the help of an interpreter, Primary Care Clinical Deputy Director Debbie Powers told Commissioners Thursday.

The federally qualified health center will be offering the pediatric vaccine through its student health centers and primary care clinics. Two pop-up events for children ages 5 and older are scheduled at Reynolds Middle School on Nov. 17 and David Douglas High School on Nov. 22. Each clinic will serve about 500 youth.

“We are normalizing bringing vaccines back home, in primary care centers just like you do with any other vaccine,” said Powers. “Our clinics in October began vaccinating on site. We’re excited to be here for our clients and communities. We are recognized as a place where vaccines are normally administered.”