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POLK COUNTY — As well as Polk County’s efforts are going to get as many of its residents vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, still a few have fallen through the cracks during the vaccines’ rollout: the homebound resident.

Polk County Public Health plans to remedy that this week with a new homebound vaccination program it has partnered to administer it with Polk County Fire District No. 1 and Dallas Fire & EMS.

As of May 17, there were 31,528 county residents fully vaccinated. Jaqui Umstead, county public health officer, said her department has been working with NorthWest Senior and Disability Services to help identify the homebound population in addition to screening people who call the public health clinic who identify themselves as homebound.

“We have about 40 people on our list currently who are waiting for vaccine,” Umstead said. “We have already partnered with OHA (Oregon Health Authority) to bring down some mobile units to help us to vaccinate this population, but they have not been able to commit to vaccinating all of our homebound population, so we are trying to source this locally.”

County administrative staff got the paperwork started last week to initiate an interagency agreement for the Polk County Commissioners that gets the ball rolling for the fire districts and public health to work together on the program.

“We enter into these types of agreements whenever we are asking another agency to perform these types of tasks,” Umstead explained. “It defines the roles and responsibilities of each party, which helps to inform our workflow. Once the agreement has been approved by all parties, we are ready to set up some dates that work for the Fire/EMS agencies and we will then notify people who are on our homebound vaccination list. No special training is needed as their staff are already trained to give injections in the field.”

Fire District No. 1 Fire Chief Ben Stange said he and Dallas Fire & EMS Chief Todd Brumfield were looking forward to being a part of the program.

“It’s a good opportunity, especially since it’s for some of the most vulnerable in our community,” Stange said. “In addition, during the 15 minutes it takes to give the vaccine, we can also check smoke detectors, clear access to exits, all sorts of safety things. This helps familiar ourselves with people we’ve not had contact within the recent past. We’re hoping partnering with Public Health is a win-win.”

Umstead concurred.

“We are very excited to have Polk Fire 1 and Dallas Fire & EMS be able to assist us with this operation. Both agencies have been open and very willing to help. We are consistently looking for ways to improve vaccine access to our community members and working with our community partners has been key to getting shots into arms.”

People who identify themselves as homebound who would like to be vaccinated can call the Public Health office at 503-623-8175. They will be screened and added to current list or Public Health will work with them to find a vaccine resource as needed, Umstead said.

She added they will use either the two-dose Moderna or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, depending on which vaccine is on hand.

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