Salem Health began a Covid vaccine clinic at the state fairgrounds on Jan. 7 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Salem Health can now vaccinate up to 2,000 Marion County health care workers daily at the state fairgrounds, dramatically expanding the inoculation’s availability after a sluggish initial rollout.

The health care provider is also beginning a walk-in clinic for people currently eligible to receive the Covid vaccine at West Valley Hospital in Dallas next week.

Most Oregonians are not yet able to receive the vaccine. Currently, vaccination is available to health care workers, a broad category that includes dentists, mental health therapists, midwives, hospital janitors and medical transport drivers. First responders, including corrections employees, firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement are also eligible. So are residents and employees of long-term care facilities.

Salem Health is encouraging everyone who is currently eligible to receive the vaccination in the coming days, Michael Gay, the health care provider's spokesman, said in an email.

“This is another important step towards immunity in our community, and it starts with protecting those who are at highest risk of exposure,” said Gay.

To date, just 5,600 Marion County residents and 1,700 Polk County residents have received a Covid vaccine, according to data from Oregon Health Authority. Both counties have higher rates of vaccination than the tri-county Portland metro area. But Oregon as a whole has lagged in rolling out widespread vaccination.

While other states including Washington have released detailed timelines explaining when vaccines will be available to the next groups eligible, the health authority still has not said when older Oregonians (who are particularly vulnerable) will be able to receive a vaccine. Those over 75 are expected to be next in line, along with teachers and essential workers, but detailed plans have not been made.

A vaccine advisory committee appointed by Gov. Kate Brown held its first meeting on Thursday, but did not make any decisions about prioritization.

Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron said Salem Health approached the county last weekend about setting up the fairgrounds site. He urged those eligible to seek a vaccine.

“The faster that we can get people vaccinated, the faster we’re going to get through this pandemic,” Cameron said.

Here’s what people seeking vaccination in the Salem area should know.

Am I eligible to get vaccinated?

To receive a vaccine in Oregon, you must be included in the first group of people eligible, called group 1A, which includes health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents. Older Oregonians who don't fall into one of the above categories are not yet eligible.

A full list of those included is available starting on page 5 of this Oregon Health Authority document.

To receive a vaccine at the fairgrounds from Salem Health, you must live or work in Marion County. To receive a vaccine at West Valley Hospital, you must live or work in Polk County.

When and where can I get a vaccine?

The clinic at the state fairgrounds, 2330 17th St NE, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through at least Monday, Jan. 11. Salem Health plans to extend the days offered as it receives more vaccine doses.

Those seeking vaccination should enter through the gate off of 17th Street.

At West Valley Hospital in Dallas, walk-in vaccinations will be available starting Monday, Jan. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays.

What do I need to bring?

If you can, fill out the vaccine paperwork available on the Salem Health website in advance.

If you have health insurance, bring your insurance card, which will be billed for the cost of administering the vaccine. If you don’t have insurance, you won’t be charged.

Wear a mask or face covering.

How long will it take?

The wait depends on how many others are waiting, but Cameron said the process at the fairgrounds should take about 25 minutes. That includes a 15-minute waiting period after receiving the shot to monitor for allergic reaction, a rare side effect.

Which vaccine will I get?

There are two Covid vaccines currently approved for emergency use, one made by Pfizer and one by Moderna. They work similarly and were about equally effective in preventing Covid in trials.

Both require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine’s doses are spaced 21 days apart, and the Moderna vaccine is spaced 28 days apart.

The fairgrounds clinic is offering the Pfizer vaccine, and West Valley Hospital is offering the Moderna vaccine.

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.

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