If you can’t drive into town to get vaccinated for COVID-19, the six members of the Douglas County Tiger Team are making sure the vaccines get to you.
The Tiger Team holds small pop-up vaccine clinics at businesses, farms, fire stations and other locations all over the county.
On Tuesday, the team worked with Coles Valley Vineyard in Umpqua to hold a pop-up clinic for migrant workers there.
The team also planned to hold clinics at the fire departments in Camas Valley and Tenmile this week, as well as one in Scottsburg next week.
Tiger Team Leader Michael Hansen said the clinics are a key element in helping the whole community reach herd immunity and move past the pandemic.
“We need to be able to go out and reach out to these outlying areas and provide this service. If we didn’t do that, there’s a lot of people in Douglas County that would not get vaccinated,” Hansen said.
To date, the team has held pop-up clinics in Glendale, Azalea, Days Creek, Milo, Tiller and Toketee.
At many locations they will wind up going back twice, administering second shots to those who get the Moderna vaccine and then getting some new takers and, if needed, going back for that group’s second shots.
Hansen spent 45 years in the fire service, in Central Point, Medford and Roseburg. He is a former chief of Douglas County Fire District No. 2.
And prior to the pandemic, he was retired.
But that ended when he was asked to serve on the Douglas Public Health Network’s epidemiology team.
As an epidemiologist, he has performed case investigations and traced contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
Then he agreed to take on the leadership of the Tiger Team.
Many of those who come for vaccinations don’t have transportation to get to the larger towns for a vaccine.
Every clinic is a little bit different, Hansen said. Participation has varied widely, with turnout ranging from five to 93 people.
“You’re really not sure what you’re going to get. You hope for the best and be happy if you get close to it,” he said.
Hansen believes the rural clinics, combined with the successful mass vaccinations at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, along with all the other clinics and pharmacies providing vaccines will get county residents to herd immunity.
“We’re getting there, and I’m pretty optimistic about it,” he said.
He said members of the rural areas the team visits are happy to see them.
“They are excited. They are overwhelmed that we’re actually going out to them. So they’re very pleased about that,” he said.
A few come by who are reluctant to be vaccinated. Most of the fear involves needles, so Hansen said he recommends they choose the vaccine that only requires one dose.
“You get the Johnson & Johnson, it’s only one time,” he said.
Sometimes he has to remind people worried about the vaccine that they had lots of vaccinations growing up as children.
He expects reluctance to decrease as people see that the vaccines haven’t harmed anyone they know.
“Now that their neighbors, their friends have all gotten it, nobody’s started growing a third ear or anything like that, they might reach out and get it,” he said.
The Tiger Team label refers to a small group of handpicked experts who go about solving problems. The first and possibly most famous example of a Tiger Team was NASA’s Apollo 13 lunar mission team.
The other members of the team include Stephanie Griggs, who is bilingual and works on logistics; Rob Gandy, logistics; and Mitchell Kilkenny and Bonnie Durick, vaccinator assistants who draw the vaccines and get the syringes ready for the vaccinator and then fill out vaccination cards. After each event, the paperwork is brought to the sixth member, Annie Dannenhoffer, who inputs the data and enters the information into the state system.
The team was pulled together by Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, Douglas Public Health Network Director Teresa Mutschler and Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer, who is the husband of Annie Dannenhoffer.
It is supported in its mission by Umpqua Valley Ambulance, which provides a certified vaccinator and medical assistant for each event.
At Tuesday’s event, which drew mainly Spanish-speaking participants, Coles Valley Vineyard provided additional translators.
Most participants at the pop-up clinics prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because they only have to take the shot once, Hansen said.
On Tuesday morning, the team had already given 25 people shots, and just six requested Moderna, Hansen said.
No appointments are necessary for the popup clinics, and it’s not required that participants live in the community.
Hansen recommended rural residents keep checking the Douglas Public Health Network’s website for information about upcoming clinics in their area. Those without internet access can call the county’s COVID-19 hotline at 541-464-6550.
“We’re going to keep going until the need is no longer there,” Hansen said.