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Metro-area counties announce plan to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for health workers

Public health departments in the Portland metro area will match health care providers and employers with area hospitals.

PORTLAND, Ore — Portland metro-area counties and area hospital systems on Tuesday announced a new plan to vaccinate all area health workers who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1A of the state’s plan.

The effort to speed up vaccinations includes eligible health care providers who are unaffiliated with hospitals. 

Independent healthcare workers including doctors, physical therapists and volunteers had reached out to KGW confused on where to go for the vaccine.

Susan Weedall is a pelvic physical therapist who must see her patients in person. She said it's been impossible to get answers.

"It's a very large group and I'm really concerned that there's no way to contact us directly. So, it seems to be up to us to just continue to call and ask on a daily basis to just see what our options are for ourselves and our patients," said Weedall.

According to a news release from Multnomah County, public health departments in the metro area will match health care providers and employers with area hospitals. Each employer is asked to fill out a survey and provide information including the number of employees who need vaccines. Solo health practitioners are asked to fill out the survey themselves.

Within a week, employers will be matched with a hospital system, which will notify the provider or employer about where they can go to get the vaccine, county officials said.

"We have been getting calls and emails from health care workers in our counties who are not affiliated with a hospital system and have been unable to get the COVID-19 vaccine," said Washington County Public Health Manager Tricia Mortell. "These workers sacrifice so much to take care of our community’s most vulnerable residents, and I’m excited that this partnership will help them access the vaccine."

RELATED: 400,000 Oregonians now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, but system to get one still isn't set up

The joint effort includes Washington, Multnomah, Clackamas and Columbia counties, and Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University, Providence Health & Services, Health Share of Oregon and CareOregon.

"We are all coordinating to get this group vaccinated quickly and methodically so that we can be ready as soon as possible to turn our focus toward the members of our community who are most vulnerable to severe disease,'' said Kim Toevs, director of Multnomah County's Communicable Disease Program.

RELATED: Oregon expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to people 65 and older beginning Jan. 23

Do you have a question about the vaccination process? Email Cristin at CallCristin@kgw.com

RELATED: US asking states to speed vaccine, not hold back 2nd dose