Peace Corps volunteers are going door to door in The Dalles to spread the word about the mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic at St. Mary’s Academy. The clinic is only here through next Wednesday, July 14, and this is a final push to get the word out.
The clinic is open daily through July 14 (except for Monday July 12), from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The volunteers work in teams of two, and they concentrate on apartment complexes, so they can reach the most people in the quickest time. They have identified some 500 affordable housing units to visit.
Max Sullivan is the team coordinator for the 10-person group of Peace Corps volunteers assigned to The Dalles for the final days of the mobile vaccine unit at St. Mary’s, located at 1112 Cherry Heights Road.
Most of the volunteers will be working at the vaccine clinic, while others will knock on doors and hand out flyers about the clinic, Sullivan said. They distribute flyers at businesses in the mornings, and start visiting apartments at around noon, so they don’t wake anyone up.
Vaccines are free, and no appointments, insurance or ID are needed at the drive-up/walk-in clinic. Wasco County residents get a $50 VISA gift card for getting the vaccine. Offered is the Pfizer vaccine, for those 12 and older, and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Those who need a free ride to the clinic can call the LINK bus at 541-296-7595.
Peace Corps volunteers have already knocked on thousands of doors in the Portland metro area. “A lot of people don’t know it’s free, or they don’t know you don’t have to have insurance, and you don’t need ID,”
“A surprising number of people don’t know how easy it is,” said Peace Corps Volunteer Charlie Yow. They only know about the early months, when getting a vaccine was difficult. Baboucarr Jallow, a Peace Corps volunteer, said once people learn they can get something free, such as a gift card, “they start coming out.”
Sullivan said the gift cards don’t turn a “no” into a “yes,” but it incentivizes people who “weren’t in a hurry” to get the vaccine to go ahead and get one.
Sometimes volunteers do door-knocking one day and work a clinic the next, and they see people they’d talked to the previous day coming to the clinics. “We know it works,” Sullivan said of doorknocking. “It’s very important to say it’s a personal decision and we’re not forcing it on anyone,” Sullivan said.
Peace Corps Volunteer Judy Jones said in-person outreach is effective. “It’s just talking to people and finding out what makes them motivated to do it.”
Someone answers the door about half the time. “If you get 100 doors and two or three are interested in it, that’s something,” Sullivan said. “Usually it’s more.”
They use the translation application Voiance to help them if they meet someone who doesn’t speak English.
“Within less than a minute we have someone on the line that can translate any language,” Sullivan said. The vast majority of people are polite, but the volunteers are trained in how to calm a situation if need be.
Their main goal is simply to notify people of the clinic and that it’s free. They are also able to answer general questions about the vaccines.
The Peace Corps volunteers were all evacuated from abroad in 2020 because of the pandemic. In all, 158 volunteers were sent to five states to help with vaccinations. It is only the second time in the Peace Corps’ history that volunteers have worked in the United States. The first time was during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
(For more information, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600, visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org or find us on Facebook.)