Health & Education
Long shot: Family travels from Reno to obtain COVID-19 vaccination
By Danielle Harrison
Smoke Signals staff writer
The Tribe’s two-day vaccination clinic held on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 3-4, attracted droves of people from all over Oregon and Washington.
But it’s likely that one family traveled much farther than many.
Lauren Klein, 51, and her daughters, Maya Reyes Klein, 19, and Isabela Reyes Klein, 21, left Reno, Nev., at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, in order to arrive for their afternoon appointments at the Tribal gym for the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine. The Tribe vaccinated 1,636 people during the event, said Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe.
The Klein family heard about the clinic from a Tribal member who is a close friend. Once they learned that the clinic had opened up to anyone 18 and older so as not to waste already thawed vaccine doses, Maya quickly secured online appointments for herself and her sister, who is immune compromised. Their mother was unable to obtain an appointment before they were filled, but traveled with her daughters for support.
“It is all about the kids,” Lauren said. “It’s a long drive and I wanted to make sure they were safe.”
The family was undeterred by the prospect of driving in wintry conditions in their Mini Cooper wagon.
“It was too late to try and rent a car,” Lauren said. “There was some ice on the way, but we were fine.”
The two sisters only made their appointments after being reassured by their Tribal member friend they were not taking a vaccine from someone local who really needed it. It only takes two hours for the vaccine to thaw when removed from a freezer and then the doses are only viable for six hours.
“We were all very clear that we didn’t want to take away from anyone else,” Lauren said. “We were told the Tribe didn’t want any of the doses to go to waste. We are so grateful for the generosity from the Tribe.”
The three chose to make the 520-mile trip to Grand Ronde from Reno due to issues with Nevada’s vaccine rollout.
“There really isn’t a clear timeframe and I was feeling pretty anxious about it, especially with a sister who is immune compromised,” Maya said. “The system in Reno is in disarray.”
After getting her vaccination, Maya said her feelings were mixed.
“It’s a combination of anxious because of potential side effects and relief at the same time because I will have some protection from COVID,” she said. “I’m also feeling hopeful.”
Lauren kept eyeing the gym, waiting for her other daughter to emerge. After receiving the vaccination, people had to wait 15 minutes or more depending on their health status to ensure there was no allergic reactions.
“When she comes out and I find out she is OK, then I will be less nervous,” she said. “I’ll be happy to know she at least has some protection.”
The Kleins said they will repeat the more than 1,000-mile round trip and be back on March 4 for their second dose.
“We’re very grateful for this opportunity,” Lauren said.
Rowe said during the Sunday, Feb. 7, General Council meeting that the person who traveled the farthest to receive a vaccine dose was from North Dakota.
Former Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno also invoked the words of Tribal Elder and Restoration figure Kathryn Harrison in saying that the Grand Ronde Tribe would care for the community after Restoration because the community cared for the Tribe during its 29 years of Termination.
The Tribe scheduled a second Vaccination Clinic for Wednesday, Feb. 10, in the Tribal gym. The 750 doses available were all accounted for by Monday, Feb. 8. Rowe announced the clinic to the public at 1:06 p.m. and all of the doses were reserved within about an hour.
Individuals who registered for the Feb. 3-4 clinic through Eventbright will be contacted with registration instructions for their second dose. Those who did not register through the website should call 503-879-1420 to schedule a second appointment.
Vaccine clinic stats
Doses given: 1,636
Elders (55+): 572
Tribal employees: 280
CTGR family members: 69
School employees: 22
Community members: 361
Oldest person: 98
Source: Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe