The Oregon Convention Center (OCC) was not open for usual business, but served a critical function to Oregon residents – one of the largest vaccine sites in the country. Over the past two months, the USDA assisted in providing over 320,000 vaccines in Portland by partnering with FEMA to vaccinate America.
Employees primarily from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) arrived in March to support the operation. As an Agency staffed with people protecting American agriculture by responding to animal and plant disease emergencies, APHIS is uniquely qualified to assist FEMA during an emergency and has previously partnered with them on a variety of emergencies under Emergency Support Function #11 authority. APHIS deployed teams to Portland to support the vaccination mission, and on May 14th, the remaining team returned home - a major milestone in the fight against COVID-19.
After APHIS arrived in March, the daily number of vaccinations at the OCC steadily increased from approximately 6,000 to 8,000. APHIS assisted with greeting vaccination patients at the OCC, registering them for their shot, scheduling their second shots, providing problem solving for cases requiring extra assistance, and guiding patients throughout all the stations.
As a Deputy Team Leader during the first half of this deployment, I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding experience. We were contributing to a critical mission, and it was an opportunity to meet a wide range of APHIS professionals. The Deputy Team Leaders I partnered with were outstanding. Jeff Flores, State Director, flew in from Guam for his first APHIS deployment and Mike Contente, Animal Identification Coordinator, brought experience from multiple deployments. This was a tremendous opportunity to work with so many incredible people, and I am grateful to work for an Agency that has contributed to this mission in Oregon and across the country.