To boost Covid vaccination rates, Salem Health plans mobile clinics for local schools

Ingrid Ceballos, left, Four Corners Elementary School principal, and school counselor Kim Siegrist, look over Covid vaccine consent forms at a vaccination clinic held at the school on Friday, May 21, 2021 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Kim Siegrist knows transportation is a challenge for the families she works with at Four Corners Elementary School.

Once, the school counselor recalled a boy broke his arm on the playground. Siegrist called his mother, who had to call a cab to take them to the hospital because they didn’t have a car available.

When Covid vaccines began rolling out, Siegrist knew many Four Corners parents would have trouble getting to the mass vaccination site at the state fairgrounds or other locations outside their southeast Salem neighborhood for shots.

She wanted to find a way to bring vaccines to them.

Siegrist said in some Salem neighborhoods, residents “don’t see people are dying from Covid. But this neighborhood has had grandparents dying. So, we thought, ‘We need to make it as easy as we can,’” she said.

Working with Salem Health, the school hosted a Covid vaccine clinic Friday, giving shots to 240 people from 2-6 p.m.

It’s the first such clinic open to the public held at a Salem school. Leaders at both Salem Health and the Salem-Keizer School District said similar clinics will be key to helping families and teens in Salem get vaccinated, particularly in neighborhoods where access has been challenging.

Siegrist said giving families access to shots matters for her students’ education. Since in-person classes resumed at Four Corners in early March, students have sometimes missed school after an adult relative contracted Covid, requiring the entire family to stay home and quarantine.

Evelia Delgadillo, a parent of a Four Corners student, lined up with her 15-year-old daughter, planning to get the girl vaccinated.

“I want to support the school with these events,” she said in Spanish.

She’s already been vaccinated, but hadn’t had time to get her daughter in. The family lives walking distance from Four Corners, making it more convenient for them. Delgadillo said some of her friends from work were planning to bring their teens by later in the day.

Ingrid Ceballos, the school’s principal, said they sent automated calls home and emailed families to let them know of the event, as did other district schools in the neighborhood.

She greeted families at the side of the school, handing out consent forms and directing people toward the line.

Around 2:30 p.m. one woman approached Ceballos, hesitating to take a form.

“I don’t read,” she explained in Spanish.

“Don’t worry, we’ll help you,” Ceballos responded, talking her through the paperwork.

Josh Franke, the chief project officer for Salem Health’s Covid vaccine rollout, said mobile clinics are essential to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution.

White, Asian and Pacific Islander Oregonians have the highest vaccination rates in the state, while Black, Latino and Native American Oregonians are less likely to have received a shot, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

Just 31.5% of Latinos in Oregon have received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, compared to 50.9% of all Oregonians.

Salem Health’s mobile vaccine unit began offering clinics about two months ago at locations including agricultural employers and smaller towns in Marion and Polk counties.

About a dozen clinics are currently scheduled through July at schools in Marion and Polk counties, including Swegle, Hallman, Lamb, Hayesville, Washington, Chavez and Highland elementary schools. Those are primarily schools in north and east Salem with a high number of Latino students.

Franke said to date, about 60% of people vaccinated at mobile clinics are people of color, compared to just 20% of those vaccinated at Salem Health’s mass vaccination site at the state fairgrounds.

Smaller clinics located at familiar locations like schools or employers reduce barriers and make it easier for people to get shots, he said, especially when Salem Health works with community organizations.

“These things all come down to trust,” he said.

The Four Corners event had bilingual school and hospital employees helping register families in Spanish and English, as well as a Marshallese interpreter.

Chris Baldridge, the school district’s director of safety and risk management, said the district is working with Salem Health to host vaccine clinics in the coming weeks at other schools, focusing first on those east of Lancaster Avenue. Baldridge said those neighborhoods have seen the highest rates of Covid, especially in recent weeks.

“It’s our greatest need,” he said.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.