READY TO HELP

Left to right, Carol Hacker, Leni Horst, and Jane Palmer, members of the NorthShore corps of retired medical volunteers. 

NorthShore Medical Group has recruited over 30 retired medical workers to administer COVID vaccines at their White Salmon and Stevenson facilities. The team is already in action, filling crucial administrative and clinical roles that expand local capacity for immunization the midst of nationwide dysfunction for the vaccine rollout.

“The idea sprang from necessity,” explains Chris Faison, physician at Northshore. He credits clinic administrator Cindy Robertson as source of the creative solution. The agency needed more capable hands; these former nurses, cardiologists, and family doctors—already trained and qualified—were more than happy to answer the call.

“It’s in their blood to serve,” Faison says. “Living through a pandemic, they’ve been feeling a helplessness that’s a multiplier of what most of us feel.” Faison reports that, with the aid of these eager volunteers, the White Salmon clinic has given nearly 200 shots to highest-priority individuals and is beginning to administer second rounds. “I think we can ramp up to doing 100 vaccines a day pretty quick,” he says.

Placing trusted leaders in visible roles is also a strategy they hope will alleviate fears about the safety and efficacy of the shots. “Take some the most trusted faces in the community—the family doc that birthed several members of your family, people with decades of work on both sides of the river, and put them out there not only recommending but giving you your shots,” Faison explains.

As they build capacity, NorthShore is also joining local officials to advocate at the state level for more equity in the rollout. Faison and others hope to include frontline workers and teachers of all ages sooner than later. “Whoever has time and is able to advocate for themselves and be pushy gets what they want,” he observes, noting that state policy changes aren’t accounting for all populations at high risk. Agency plans also include expanded field operations, with mobile services targeted toward agricultural workers and others in the community.

Skyline Health and Klickitat Valley Health have taken similar strides to make vaccines available, remaining nimble in the face of shifting guidance from the state and unpredictable supply chains. Emergency Management is coordinating with the countywide response as well, helping to secure and deploy qualified and trained volunteers. “I think we’ve done better than any other county in the Gorge,” says Erin Quinn, county Director of Public Health.

Washington entered the first tier of phase 1B effective Monday, January 18; this expands eligibility to anyone 65 years or older, and residents of multigenerational households aged 50 or above. Faison cautions that it will still be several months for widespread availability of vaccines; experts forecast that May will be the soonest the public might expect shots for anyone who wants them.

NorthShore, Skyline, and KVH are scheduling ongoing vaccination appointments. Eligible individuals can be placed on a waiting list at the NorthShore clinic by calling (509) 493-2133. KVH will offer a drive-through vaccination clinic on January 25 and is currently seeking volunteer support. The latest updates can be found on multiple platforms, including provider websites, Facebook pages, and through the county Department of Health. To learn if you are in an eligible cohort, or for more about joining volunteer efforts, check the with your health care provider, or contact Public Health: