“This is my second and final shot,” I watched an old woman tell a volunteer. “It’s been a year and I can finally see my grandkids.”
With Oregon Governor Kate Brown expanding vaccine eligibility to all Oregonians 16 and up starting April 19, it won’t be much longer before every UP student has the opportunity to get vaccinated and to take part in a seminal moment in human history. In Portland, the largest and most common place to get vaccinated is the Oregon Convention Center (OCC). The process can feel daunting, as you have to know how to navigate the online sign up process, as well as the convention center when it’s time for your appointment.
As someone who was lucky enough to be vaccinated at the OCC already, here is a first hand look at the vaccination process, from signing up to getting a needle in the arm.
The first step is to sign up for Get Vaccinated Oregon, a tool that will tell you when you become eligible for the vaccine. Even though we already know young people become eligible on April 19th, this tool enters you into a lottery system, which can help you get an appointment more quickly and without having to spend hours searching for an appointment online.
Once you are eligible for the vaccine, the Get Vaccinated tool will also allow you to view the vaccine locator map which will help you search through locations to try to find an appointment if you aren’t offered an appointment through the lottery. You may have to check the map and different locations several times before you can find an appointment, as thousands of people are fighting for slots at once.
When I became eligible, I received an email from Get Vaccinated Oregon that let me know I was chosen by the lottery system, which allowed me to make my appointment at the OCC. I was so thrilled to have my appointment that I must’ve called every single one of my family members that day to let them know that it was finally happening.
On the day of my appointment, I chose to drive to the OCC. As I got closer to the facility, I noticed a long line of cars waiting to park. Be prepared to arrive early to your appointment, as it may take some time to get into the parking garage and find a spot. The OCC does provide parking that is designated for people being vaccinated, in a parking garage connected to the facility off of NE Lloyd Blvd. Once I found a parking spot, smiling volunteers directed me inside.
I was shocked by how organized the OCC was. As you enter the building, there are signs on the ground as well as many volunteers that let you know where you are going. They ask that you have your appointment confirmation email printed out or pulled up on your phone. There are volunteers that then check this confirmation to make sure you’re there on the right day and then they pass you along to a corralling area.
I walked back and forth across the floor following signage and roped off areas for 10 minutes before I reached the front of the line, where they directed me to a new line to get checked in (there are many, many different lines throughout this process, but I found that they all move quickly). When you go to get checked in, they will ask you some health questions, although none of the questions are to confirm whether or not you are eligible for the vaccine. They will then ask to see your I.D. and insurance card if you have one and they will have you fill out some brief paperwork before directing you to a new line.
Finally, you are in line to get the shot! I just happened to be placed in the line that led to the area where our very own UP nursing students were administering vaccines, which truthfully had me a bit emotional to witness; this many people coming together on a public health crisis and my peers were at the center of it. Unfortunately, I did not have one of them give me my vaccine.
When the time came, I was seated next to a nurse who had come out of retirement to help vaccinate everyone, and she let me know which shot I would be receiving. The whole thing was over in less than two minutes.
I was then directed to a waiting area, where they have you sit for 15 minutes to insure that you don’t have a bad reaction to the vaccine. They also have you schedule your second shot before you leave the building, with plenty of people around to help out if you need it. After the shot, my arm was super sore (I highly recommend waving it around wildly right after the shot to help mitigate this) and I was exhausted for about a day.
When it was all said and done, my entire vaccine experience at the OCC took about 40 minutes. Everyone, from the volunteers to the other vaccine recipients, was thrilled to be there and to be taking part in such a big moment in history. It was not lost on anyone what a momentous occasion it was. The OCC has an efficient system to vaccinate as many people as possible, so come April 19, get online and make an appointment so we can all get back to seeing and loving one another as soon as possible.
Mia Werner is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.