By Chris Branam
From the Oregon Coast to the eastern rangelands, Oregon State University Extension Service is collaborating to build knowledge, confidence and participation in COVID-19 vaccinations.
Efforts include volunteering at mass vaccination clinics, using the OSU Extension website to curate credible vaccine information and provide local access and eligibility details, and working closely with state and local partners to address the challenges of reaching all Oregonians, including vaccine-hesitant populations.
“With a presence in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, OSU Extension professionals are uniquely positioned as trusted partners in communities to extend vaccine information to participants, volunteers, stakeholders and community members,” says Anita Azarenko, interim vice provost for the OSU Division of University Extension and Engagement and director of the Extension Service.
In Lincoln County, faculty and staff in the Extension Family and Community Health Program in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences have worked with community partners since a COVID-19 outbreak last summer in Newport to provide urgent video communications in Spanish and Mam – a language spoken by Guatemalans who immigrated to the Oregon Coast.
Extension staff have given their time at vaccination clinics in several counties and on the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation in central Oregon has experienced a devastating number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. A team of Extension faculty and staff who work on the reservation volunteered at four vaccination clinics – two in February and two in March – in which 1,469 tribal members received shots.
On March 31, faculty and staff in the Clackamas County Extension office assisted at the combination drive-through and walk-up clinic at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, helping with parking, traffic management, check-in and monitoring patients after they received their shot. A total of 880 people received their first vaccination.
“OSU Extension is here to support our community in times of crisis and during events like this,” says Leah Sundquist, OSU Extension’s Clackamas County liaison. “We are more than willing to help when the community needs us.”
Also set up was a dedicated COVID-19 resources page for Extension employees to ensure they can answer questions about vaccine safety and efficacy and provide relevant and affirmative messaging to local partners, community members and participants in Extension’s programs, such as 4-H Youth Development and Master Gardeners.