Harrison vaccine clinic canceled

A Lane County Public Health (LCPH) free COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled at Harrison Elementary School this Tuesday was canceled just the night prior to the event, which has prompted some to point the finger at local protests for shutting it down.

The cancellation came on the heels of a boisterous Saturday vaccine clinic at the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce during which protesters appeared and some attendees have reported feeling uncomfortable as they went in for a jab.

A worker at LCPH told The Sentinel early on Tuesday that the vaccine clinic was canceled due to concerns around protests and that no further vaccine clinics were yet planned in Cottage Grove.

Interim Public Information Officer for Lane County Health and Human Services Anne Marie Levis, however, later that day clarified that the protests were only partially to do with the clinic’s cancellation.

“We’ve had protests at every one of our vaccine clinics,” she said, downplaying the impact of such protests on staging the clinics. “So, if the protesters were shutting it down, we’d be shutting down each one.”

It was more so the case, she said, that a vaccine clinic in Thurston also taking place on Tuesday had an overwhelming response with appointments, requiring the agency call in more of its limited pool of volunteers.

The Harrison School clinic, on the other hand, had a smaller turnout of scheduled appointments and the agency tried to contact those people and direct them instead to Thurston where the resources were consolidated, Levis said.

However, she noted that concern over protests still registered.

“There’s always some worry when we do have protesters and we don’t have a good area to have them in that keeps them separated from people,” she said. “Part of what we do is we want to make sure people are safe. And so, that means making sure that people can come in and get a vaccination and feel safe.”

The sense of safety is a point of concern for some of those in Cottage Grove who attended Saturday’s Chamber clinic.

Chamber President/CEO Shauna Neigh called the event “embarrassing and heartbreaking” due to the intensity of the protesters. Using a bullhorn to mock the clinic and intimidate people on their way in was unacceptable, she said.

“I absolutely 100 percent believe in my body, my choice. I believe in the right to assemble. If people want to get the shot, they should be able to get the shot. If people don’t want to get the shot, they can protest or hold their signs up. But they don’t have the right to bully, harass and create fear,” she said.

Sara Secord, a regular participant in the weekly protests said she did not see anyone on either side behaving badly toward each other and stressed that protesters follow a general rule of being “calm, collected and nice.”

“I do not feel we were intimidating,” she said.

In a September article on the weekly demonstrations by The Sentinel, many protesters and organizers emphasized that while they were “anti-mandate” and “anti-force” when it comes to the COVID vaccine, they considered themselves “pro-choice,” meaning the decision to get the vaccine should be left up to each individual.

Protesters have also repeatedly countered the claim that they are an “anti-vax” group because many in their own group are vaccinated.

Regarding choice, some who attended the Chamber vaccine clinic on Saturday have pointed out that their choice to get a vaccine should then be respected and, if protests have caused the cancellation of the Harrison clinic, the group is not living up to its “pro-choice” ethos.

In the meantime, there are currently no future clinics scheduled in Cottage Grove, but Levis said the county is actively looking for more opportunities and pointed out that there are other resources such as pharmacies people can use.

As far as protests influencing future clinics, Levis emphasized that safety is the main concern, but that protesters were free to express themselves at events.

“You know, the good thing about a democracy is people can have difference of opinions,” she said. “And so that’s what we’re experiencing here now is people have a difference of opinion who want to share their information.”

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