Tana Waller, a communicable disease coordinator nurse for the Malheur County Health Department talks about the benefits of the Covid vaccine during a clinic in Ontario last week. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

ONTARIO – The Malheur County Health Department reported last week it has vaccinated nearly 5,000 people against Covid, including a third of the area’s population 65 and over.

And the vaccine is becoming more readily available as supplies across the U.S. increase and new sources open in Malheur County.

Seven area drug stores or health centers and organization now offer Covid vaccinations.

They include Valley Family Health in Ontario, Nyssa and Vale, Stark Medical in Ontario, BiMart in Ontario, Malheur Drug in Vale, Malheur Memorial Health in Nyssa and Medical Pharmacy in Nyssa.

Access to the vaccine at those locations is by appointment only. Most health care providers charge insurance for the cost of the inoculations.

The health department expanded distribution of the vaccine to other medical center and pharmacies because the allocation from the state has increased, said Erika Harmon, public information officer for the health department.

Harmon said, though, the vaccine allocation from the state “has not been consistent.”

“We received 700 doses last week. We know we can distribute 300 new doses a week. When we get more than that, we either store it or we share it. We’ve chosen to share it,” said Harmon.

At Vale’s Malheur Drug, pharmacist Jennifer Tolman said she received her first shipment of vaccine last Wednesday from the health department.

As of Friday, she said, she’s administered 55 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

“When I first got it, I was frantic to get it out. But I was surprised by how many people had already got it. The county is doing an awesome job getting it out to people,” said Tolman.

When the weekly vaccination clinic at Four Rivers Cultural Center came to a close last Thursday, vaccine was still available, said Harmon.

The clinic has been limited to those eligible for vaccine, including childcare providers, early learning and kindergarten through 12th grade educators and those 65 and older.

 “We are seeing this every week. A lull in demand about 90 minutes in, after our initial line has gone through,” said Harmon.

The lulls are not concerning, said Harmon.

“It could be confirming what we already know – that the first come, first served vaccine clinic is not the right approach for everyone. Some folks prefer convenience of a drive-up clinic, others want to schedule an in-office appointment, and we know that with options come preferences,” said Harmon. 

“What would be more concerning is if people who wanted a vaccine were unable to get one. But with a number of providers in the county up and running with vaccine clinics, we feel confident that, unlike some of the more heavily populated pockets in the state, Malheur County will continue to meet the demand,” said Harmon.

Meanwhile, Covid could be fading locally.

From Feb. 21 to March 6, the health department reported 36 cases and a positivity rate of 2.7%.

Statistics from Southwest District Health March 11 showed that Payette County held a 1.32% Covid test positivity rate. In Washington County, the test positivity rate 1.90%.

The drop in the positivity rate, said Harmon, indicates “that people understand the importance of getting tested if they are symptomatic or think they might have been exposed to COVID-19 and that we are seeing a decrease in positive cases,” said Harmon.

Harmon said the county still has a long road ahead of it before it rolls out of the pandemic.

“We’re close but we need to continue to follow precautions and do our part to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” said Harmon.

Where to get vaccine:

Appointments are now available at pharmacies and medical offices for vaccinations.

If you are eligible, here’s who you can call to get an appointment. To learn if you are eligible, go to malheurhealth.org.

Valley Family Health Care – 541-889-2340 in Nyssa, Vale and Ontario.

Stark Medical, Ontario – 541-889-2244.

BiMart, Ontario – 541-889-2141.

Malheur Drug, Vale – 541-889-3333.

Malheur Memorial Health, Nyssa – 541-372-2211.

Medicap Pharmacy, Nyssa – 541-372-2222.

Walgreens Ontario – 541-889-6288 (residents can call to put on a waiting list for vaccine).

WalMart Pharmacy Ontario – Residents must go online to Walmart.com/covidvaccine to schedule a vaccine appointment.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] .

Previous coverage:

Top Malheur County official says more vaccine needed to stymie Covid

Ontario hospital receives first doses of Covid vaccine

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