About 1,700 doses of COVID-19 will be available to all Umatilla County residents next week, thanks to outreach from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
CTUIR’s interim director, Paul Rabb, told county commission chairperson George Murdock that the tribes are anticipating thousands of new doses from their federal source.
The first mass vaccination clinics open to all will be Monday and Tuesday, April 12 and 13, at Wildhorse Resort & Casino’s FunPlex area. The vaccine will be the Pfizer formula and available to people age 16 and older. Proof of residency is required.
“We are just trying to push these vaccinations out,” Rabb told the Union-Bulletin.
While this is a first broad vaccination outreach, the tribes have been using their sovereign nation status to use federally supplied doses to vaccinate certain groups outside Oregon’s guidelines, he said.
Last month that included offering vaccine doses to high school students aged 16 and over — Pfizer is the only vaccine approved for teens so far — in several area school districts.
Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center providers also worked with Blue Mountain Community College to get staff and students there vaccinated. They moved on to other groups, including restaurant and food service workers, Rabb said.
Oregon’s top-down approach has not been garnering the vaccination numbers that will allow the county to open up for its large annual events, such as the Milton-Freewater Jr. Show and Umatilla County Fair, that help feed the area’s economy and identity.
Those affect everyone, Rabb pointed out.
As mirrored elsewhere in Umatilla County, some Reservation residents are choosing not to be vaccinated “for various reasons,” Rabb said.
“I think it’s that way throughout Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.”
Thus tribe officials have decided to do a full-court press — not only by offering their supply of vaccine to non-tribe members, but with a marketing push to get people hesitant about the vaccine on board, he said.
“I think this is just what we have to try to sell.”
Ads will be run, information cards handed out with restaurant drive-thru orders, and phone calls will continue. Rabb’s office will be working with Pendleton Whisky Music Fest organizers to encourage vaccinations, and the hope is to get Pendleton Round-Up officials to do the same.
“Maybe if you tell someone 10 times, then maybe the 10th time they will get vaccinated,” he said.
Another vaccination event of more than 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses is coming May 26 and 27.