February 24, 2021

Multnomah County Community Health Centers began scheduling eligible patients for COVID-19 vaccines at its clinics last week. As a Federally Qualified Health Center, the program was selected as one of 250 health centers nationally to receive a dedicated allocation of the vaccine for its patients. The patient vaccine program kicked off last week at Multnomah’s Northeast Health Center and East County Health Center, where more than 200 patients received their first shot. 

Four of Oregon’s 33 federally qualified health centers were selected to receive an allocation of about 6,000 vaccine doses from the federal government. Multnomah County clinics expect to receive between 500 and 1,000 doses from the federal supply and the Oregon Health Authority each week. That’s in addition to vaccine allocations provided to local public health for targeted community vaccine clinics.

The County’s Community Health Center is the state's largest Federally Qualified Health Center, serving more than 60,000 patients each year. The Health Center continues to play a critical role in ensuring equitable access to the vaccine for Multnomah County’s population. 

"As a safety net health center, we are leading the charge to ensure we reduce the gap in vaccine access for the community we serve,” said Tasha Wheatt-Delancy, executive director of the Community Health Center. “Creating equitable access for our community to be vaccinated right here at their regular primary care clinic is a game changer.”

Delivering vaccines through primary care clinics helps ensure access for diverse communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and who face barriers to reaching mass vaccination sites. 

Multnomah County’s primary care patients include some of those people at highest-risk of being infected, hospitalized and dying from COVID-19. Sixty percent of patients identify as people of color, and more than 40 percent are best served in a language other than English. Nearly 2,000 patients are experiencing houselessness and 95 percent live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Many also face multiple barriers to accessing the vaccine.

“We have patients with limited access to technology. People who communicate in a language other than English. They might otherwise be waiting months to reserve an appointment online and arrange transportation to a large vaccine clinic,” said Katie Thornton, clinic manager of Northeast Health Center.

The County’s health centers are reaching out directly to eligible patients to schedule appointments. Patients who are coming into the clinic for routine visits at primary care, dental, and pharmacy locations are encouraged to ask their health provider or clinic staff about scheduling an appointment. 

“It is an honor and a privilege to be able to serve community members and offer the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Asher Kanof, office assistant at Northeast Health Center. “It’s even more meaningful to share the excitement with longtime patients who live with serious health conditions, who are isolated and who will really struggle to get their vaccine at one of the big clinics.”

Established patients ages 65 and older or who qualify for Phase 1A can call 503-988-5558 to schedule an appointment at an upcoming clinic. Translation and interpretation services are available.