Federal incident management team arrives to help set up COVID-19 vaccination clinics

The team arrived in Southwest Washington on Tuesday following a request from Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties

CLARK COUNTY — Efforts to provide a shot in the arm to COVID-19 vaccinations in Southwest Washington received a boost this week when the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) approved a request from Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties for a Type 1 incident management team.

The approval came this past weekend, and Pacific Northwest Management Team 3 arrived Tuesday to meet with representatives from the three counties.

The Clark County Center for Community Health. File photo
The Clark County Center for Community Health. File photo

Team 3 is one of 16 Type 1 incident management teams from FEMA, now being tasked with a national effort to increase the speed of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout nationwide. It is comprised of federal, state and local representatives experienced in handling complex incidents.

“We are thrilled to have Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 3 in Southwest Washington,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “Through a coordinated effort between the incident management team, the three counties and community partners, we will be able to more quickly and efficiently get people in Southwest Washington vaccinated against COVID-19.”

Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties will work closely with the FEMA team to establish multiple community vaccination sites in the region, including mobile vaccination clinics to be dispatched to high-risk worksites and other locations.

Among the other details still to be worked out for the joint effort with FEMA is state funding, as well as making sure vaccine supplies are available. 

A spokesperson for Clark County Public Health said they hope to have details to announce later this week.

The effort is separate from a Washington Department of Health plan for a mass vaccination site at the Clark County Fairgrounds, which Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday could open as soon as next week.

Clark County Public Health said it was still waiting to hear details from the state about the Clark County Fair site.

Accessing vaccines

Clark County Public Health opened its COVID-19 vaccine request form online Tuesday morning, and had received over 11,000 submissions within 24 hours. 

Currently, the request form is the only way to be notified when vaccinations are available, and people are urged to avoid going to their local health provider or the Clark County Center for Community Health.

People who have submitted a request form will be notified once vaccinations are available, and provided more information on where to go. 

Public Health is warning that it may be “several weeks” before people who’ve filled out a request form are contacted, and urging them not to call for updates or fill out a second request form, as that will only slow down the process.

In a news release on Wednesday, Kaiser Permanente of Oregon and Washington said it is estimating vaccinations of people in Phase 1A and 1B will take 12-15 weeks, based on current vaccine shipment rates.

Clark County Today will continue to provide updates on vaccine availability, both here and through our Facebook page.