Photos from the PDX Red Lot Vaccine Clinic

After five months and more than 250,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses into arms, the PDX Red Lot drive-thru clinic closed for the final time on June 19, 2021.

What does it take to operate a drive-thru vaccination site on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge? More than five months since the PDX Red Lot vaccination site first opened on Jan. 21, staff and volunteers experienced the full range of Pacific Northwest weather.

In addition to 3,500 packets of sunscreen and 10,000 hand warmers, the operation was sustained with 1,000 rain ponchos, 3,500 instant coffee packets and more than 2,500 gallons of drinking water.

Six staff members from the Red Cross, OHSU, and Port of Portland stand and pose for a photo at the Red Lot vaccine clinic.
Red Cross, OHSU, and Port of Portland staff on the final day of operation.

A lot has been written about the project already:

But, most importantly, we’d like to thank all the Port of Portland, OHSU, and Red Cross people who helped make this incredible endeavor possible. Go behind the scenes with us to explore the PDX Red Lot Vaccine Clinic in action and get insights from the Port team that made this all possible.

A giant snowstorm hit a few weeks into the operation, taking down tents. For the safety of those who might be using the site, the Port and OHSU preemptively made the decision to close operations over the weekend — a decision that proved smart, as the region was blanketed in more than a foot of snow and ice.
A Red Cross volunteer bundled up on the vaccine clinic’s opening day. At times, temperatures were around 30 degrees on the opening weekend of operations.

The early cold days working in the Red Lot were REALLY cold and wet. Sheila Washington procured for us these insulated coveralls (which only came in men’s sizes, not really sizing to accommodate women’s hips!). Truly, I have never appreciated a piece of clothing more – nor looked like I tumbled out of a clown car in giant pants. Under these coveralls, I would layer long-johns and jeans and – finally – I wasn’t freezing.

Kama Simonds
A photo of a big white tent with six rows, with rain puddles on the ground and dark clouds overhead.
Crews set up a vaccination tent in cold, wet weather. The Port and its vendors made a number of real-time adjustments — including ordering these large tents to accommodate multiple cars at a time — to make the Red Lot vaccine clinic more and more efficient for patients.
A woman and a man in orange safety vests sit inside a tent that was used for the PDX Red Lot vaccine clinic staff and volunteer check-in.
Staff and volunteers had some protection from the rain — and later the heat — in the staff/volunteer tent. This is where they checked in for their shift and grabbed coffee, snacks, and any food donations that were made for the day.

There were lots of cold and rainy days early on. We were all cold and wet but dedicated to the “mission”. Every day was fun, even in the worst of it.

Michael Huggins
The Port of Portland's Steve Koester, Michael Huggins, and Kama Simonds are bundled up and with safety vests on while they wark at the vaccine clinic's first day of operations.
The Port of Portland’s Steve Koester, Michael Huggins, and Kama Simonds are bundled up on the vaccine clinic’s first day of operations.

My most memorable weather moment is when I was working as Incident Commander and Airport Duty Manager Brian Burk called me to let me know that PDX was suspending aircraft fueling because of reported lightening strikes within 5 miles of the airfield.

I gazed around at the big open expanses of space and tall tents with fabric draped over metal structures and thought, “This could be bad.” Then I spent the next hour obsessively watching the dark cloud move northwest – away from the parking lot! (We had a lightning plan in place shortly thereafter.)

Kama Simonds
A group of volunteers stand and pose for a photo, wearing safety vests.
OHSU volunteers gather before the cars start rolling in. Volunteers arrive up to an hour before opening to get their assignments and prepare for the day.

There is not a specific day that stands out for me other than day 1. I was able to get vaccinated for my first shot. I did love seeing Port staff coming through the site. While it was very efficiently run, I was able to say hi and briefly catch up.

Michael Huggins
A group of about 30 OHSU staff members pose for a photo who are providing vaccines at the PDX Red Lot
OHSU vaccinators gather on the last day of the Red Lot vaccine clinic. On average, around 500 volunteers were needed every day to keep the vaccine clinic running smoothly.
Four OHSU staff members in orange and yellow safety vests and masks pose for a photo. They are wearing headbands and festive necklaces
Vaccinators had a lot of fun on the site, often dressing up to bring a smile to patients coming through the Red Lot clinic.

My favorite memory was on a Sunday PM shift working with Nick Atwell. Everything was going smooth as silk, a well-oiled machine. We’d been directed to begin closing early and were on track for a shutdown in the neighborhood of 6:30 p.m. At approximately 6:15, a young lady from OHSU staff came to Nick and I with the concern she had lost her key fob and was unable to leave since she knew her car wouldn’t start.

Unfortunately, her work area covered the entire waiting area. Short story long, Nick and I drove the entire waiting area and adjacent areas. At 7:30, with shutdown now complete and all other personnel gone, I drove her to her car for one last search on the ground around it. Next step would be call for a tow/locksmith and take her to the MAX line.

After a quick look outside, she dug around under the driver’s seat and found it. Had we only STARTED our search at the car an hour earlier….. 😊

Pete Peterson
A man in a grey hat hands a piece of paper indicating a vaccine timeline to a driver in a car
We set up the Red Lot as a drive-thru clinic to support people who might have mobility concerns — and to give those in East Multnomah County an easy option that didn’t force them to drive into Portland. It was a great option for families as well, who could keep children entertained in their vehicles as they got vaccinated.
Four vaccine shot vials are in a bag and placed into a red box to be delivered to a vaccinator
Pharmacists prepared the vaccines on site in a temperature-controlled tent that was rented. Runners would take the prepared vaccines to the vaccination tents, keeping everything fresh and ready for the vaccinators.

What’s a big lesson you learned during this project?
We are family! A group of volunteers and employees from different organizations came together to deliver for the community and in doing so, built a family!

Michael Huggins
Two men and a woman from the Port of Portland post with yellow safety vests one
Port employees Andrew Sowders, Kama Simonds, and Michael Huggins celebrate their final day of operations.
Two women pose while sitting in a golf cart at the PDX Red Lot. They are wearing masks.
Sheila Washington and Nora Yotsov, who played instrumental roles in coordinating the vaccine clinic for the Port, use a golf cart to support operations and get from one location to another at the large parking lot.

Is there a specific moment or day that stands out most to you?
I was working as the Incident Commander one particular morning (prior to opening) when someone from OHSU got on the radio to let us know there was a wolf pup wandering around in the third vaccine tent. It took me a second to comprehend what they were saying because “wolf” just made no sense. A WOLF in the vaccine area??

Of course what they were seeing was a coyote, which is a pretty common site at PDX. I called our Wildlife Team just to let them know and eventually the coyote made its way off the lot. I tried to get a photo hoping to be able to add it to our “Dogs of the PDX POD” Instagram page, but alas, the pup was too quick for my camera. We all spent the rest of the day waiting for the roadrunner to show up, but no such luck.

Jennifer Stacey
A woman talks to a driver in their truck, handing him a piece of paper with vaccine safety information.
While we were unable to get a photo of our coyote friend at the Red Lot, a number of dogs came through the site with their families. In fact, there were so many Good Dogs that OHSU volunteers created an Instagram account to celebrate them: @pdx_pack_immunity.

The Vaccine Process at the Red Lot

The Portland Tribune called the PDX Red Lot vaccine clinic a “Herculean effort” to vaccinate the community. How did we move around 5,000 cars through the clinic every day? The answer is: we learned as we went along!

As Kama Simonds shared, “The days that stand out the most to me are the ones where chaos reigned and we had – and took – the opportunity to learn and improve.”

We dealt with traffic backups (onto I-205!), appointment-scheduling snafus that kept staff there until 11:30 p.m., and computer outages that caused 3-hour waits. Each time, we learned from the problem and improved the process.

By the end, we were a well-oiled machine — getting people through before they could finish their morning coffee. Here’s what their journey looked like at the Red Lot in our final weeks.

Step 1: Pull into Red Lot

A woman waves a pom pom to welcome a truck into the PDX Red Lot vaccine clinic.
As you pulled into the lot, a greeter welcomed you and directed your vehicle to a specific row to line up for step one in the process.
A woman and a dog, both with green vests on, wave a truck into the PDX Red Lot
And sometimes, that greeter included a four-legged friend.

Step 2: Get directed to a waiting lane

A woman wearing a blue shirt and orange safety vest wave a car forward into the PDX Red Lot
We used the ferry line-up system, which directed cars all to the same row at first. That whole row would then get directed to our registration tens, which had a number of shorter rows for the vehicles to pull into.
A row of cars and trucks line up and are parked in the Red Lot.
Having these different locations to park, line up, and wait meant that waiting vehicles didn’t back up onto the street.

Step 3: Check-in at registration

A man in an orange safety vest scans a person's phone while they sit in their car and have their driver's side window rolled down.
When it was your turn, OHSU staff directed you into a tent, where they confirmed your appointment time and date and checked whether this was your first or second dose.
A woman standing at a mobile computer with another woman to the right standing next to a grey vehicle.
If this was your first vaccine appointment, OHSU staff would schedule you for your second shot on the spot. Those came four weeks after the first dose.

Step 4: Head to a vaccination tent

Three Red Cross volunteers with red safety vests on wave at vehicles to direct them to vaccine tents
After you left the registration tent, you were directed by volunteers to a second set of tents to get your vaccine.
A jet plane flies overhead, while underneath a large white tent with six rows has vehicles underneath, where people are lining up to get vaccinated.
Cars would again line up in rows of six at three different vaccine tent locations. Communication could be a challenge at times, with big jets roaring overhead as they landed or took off at PDX.

Step 5: Get your vaccine

A woman in an orange safety vest and a mask and face shield holds a vaccine, while a drive in a red truck has their door open and is ready to get vaccinated
When it was your turn, you’d roll under the tent and an OHSU staff member would greet you, ask you a few questions, and quickly and painlessly administer your vaccine.
One man and two women post for a photo wearing safety goggles and masks. They are providing vaccines at the PDX Red Lot
These three OHSU medical staff were all smiles on the last day of the clinic. They have been vaccinating people on-site at the PDX Red Lot since January.

Step 6: Head to the monitoring area

A woman leans into a black car to check with the driver, who has the window rolled down.
After getting vaccinated, you’d be directed to a monitoring area, where you would wait for either 15 or 30 minutes, depending on your previous reactions to medications and vaccines. Staff would check in with you to see how you were doing.
Two rows of cars and trucks are parked in the PDX Red Lot monitoring area.
A lot of volunteers loved getting assigned to the monitoring area because it gave them a chance to stop and chat with the now-vaccinated people. Most people expressed their gratitude for the service and a sense of hope for the first time in a while.

Step 7: You’re done!

A woman with an orange safety vests sprays a bubble sprayer and holds a pom pom to celebrate people getting vaccinated.
Congrats, your work is done. You were then escorted to the exit by friendly volunteers with bubble machines and pom-poms.
Three people with orange vests and pom poms wave at a white car, who is exiting the PDX Red Lot vaccine clinic
If you got vaccinated at the PDX Red Lot, thanks for being one of more than 250,000 vaccine recipients on our site! And a big, big thank you to the nearly 5,500 volunteers who took time out of their day to give back in such a huge way.

Celebrating the Vaccine Clinic

It took thousands of volunteers, a lot of heart, and a ton of coordination to pull off this vaccine clinic.