How to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon

Here's what we know so far.

By Portland Monthly Staff

Updated May 10, 2021

Oregon began administering the first doses of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020. So how do you get one? 

The good news is, as of April 19, Oregon is in Phase 2, which means everyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for a vaccine. 

On April 23, the CDC and FDA lifted a pause that had been implemented on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as they investigated rare cases of blood clots among the 6.8 million doses already administered nationwide. 

On May 10, the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in adolescents 12 to 15 years old. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are also running clinical trials to test the effectiveness of their vaccines in adolescents younger than 16. 

Where can I get vaccinated? 

Oregonians who register at will be notified of their eligibility. Every week, the Oregon Health Authority scrambles the names of eligible registrants in the metro area and sends a list of names that matches the number of appointments available at the Oregon Convention Center’s mass vaccination site, run by four major local hospitals or hospital systems (Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, OHSU, and Providence). If you're invited to schedule an appointment, you'll be notified by text and phone, or email.

In addition, OHSU has, in collaboration with other health systems and organizations, also opened community vaccination clinics at Portland International Airport’s Red Economy Parking Lot, in Hillsboro, at its own campus on Marquam Hill, and in mobile vans. Oregonians can click "Check for appointments" on OHSU's vaccine page to confirm their eligibility and make an appointment. New times for the drive-thru vaccination sites come online at 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. 

Pharmacy chains and groups including Walgreens, Safeway/Albertsons, Costco, Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Walmart, Health Mart, and CVS are also scheduling appointments. One way to find an appointment near year is to use the Vaccine Spotter tool. 

Who is eligible to receive a vaccine right now?

  • All individuals over the age of 16

OHA had convened a vaccine advisory committee to help ensure that vaccine distribution was equitable and reached at-risk and vulnerable populations, including representatives from Native and Indigenous peoples, hospitals, nonprofits, and other communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The full list of committee members can be found here

The Oregon Convention Center site remains the primary location for vaccinations locally, but health experts at OHA recommend folks with mobility concerns and seniors who would be best served in a vehicle use the drive-though clinic at the Portland International Airport. 

Who's been vaccinated so far? 

As of May 3, Oregon has administered a cumulative total of 3,344,102 doses of the vaccine. There are 1,467,659 fully vaccinated Oregonians. 

How long will it take to vaccinate everyone?

Starting April 19, all Oregonians over the age of 16 are eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. On March 19, Governor Brown and Allen of OHA said they expect every adult in Oregon who wants a vaccine should be able to have gotten a first dose by the end of May.

In an effort to speed up the vaccination effort for older adults in the Portland metro area, OHA and All4Oregon announced on March 8 that they would pilot a new process for scheduling first COVID-19 appointments at the Oregon Convention Center. The new process informs seniors from Portland-area counties (Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, and Washington) of their vaccine eligibility and walks them through scheduling appointments. Its first weekend in action saw more than 1,800 people scheduled for vaccine appointments. Moving forward, OHA will allocate a minimum of 15,000 first vaccine doses per week for the next three weeks to the All4Oregon partners operating the OCC vaccination clinic.

On January 4, after facing criticism that Oregon was lagging far behind nearly every other state, Gov. Kate Brown announced a new goal of administering 12,000 vaccine doses a day by around January 15—roughly equal to the allotment of vaccines the state receives every week. The state first hit that goal on January 8, and has been largely surpassing it since, with some exceptions including recent days when many vaccination sites had to close due to weather conditions. Over the past week, there were more than 20,000 vaccinations on average per day. 

According to the World Health Organization, the threshold for herd immunity varies by disease and is currently unknown for COVID-19. For measles it is 95 percent of the population; for polio, 80 percent.

How did we get here?

Previously, people could schedule an appointment at the Oregon Convention Center directly through a chat tool on OHA’s COVID website, which would take users through the steps to consider their eligibility and then (in theory, at least) display available times. While the convention center scheduling has been replaced by the registry, the chat tool can still be used to schedule a vaccine at a drive-thru site in an airport economy parking lot or Hillsboro, managed by OHSU and meant for those with mobility issues (or people can schedule through OHSU's website, too). 

You can also access general vaccine information by calling 211 or 1-866-698-6155, emailing [email protected], or texting your zip code to 898211. Between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, language interpreters are available by phone, text, and email in English and Spanish. It could take a day or more to have your particular question answered: a recent inquiry of ours about a step that requested an 8-digit code took 23 hours to get an answer (and the answer is that there is no 8-digit code and that page appears to be a dead end!).

As part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a partnership between the US Federal government and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase vaccine distribution, 21 national pharmacy partners and independent pharmacy networks are activating as vaccine sites. Shipments arrived on February 10 at 127 retail pharmacies in Oregon, and on February 15 the service became available in Oregon for the eligible phase groups. This covers 27 of Oregon’s 36 counties and includes 103 Safeway/Albertson’s locations, 13 Costco locations, and 11 Health Mart pharmacies. On February 23, Walgreens announced select Oregon locations would begin administering vaccines, too. To check availability, visit the individual chains' websites. Walgreens and Health Mart may require an online account in order to sign up.

No matter what avenue you're using to schedule an appointment, it’s worth checking frequently as things change and new appointments are made available. Be prepared to try, try again, and be frustrated, as the times are limited and many people are trying to schedule. 

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