PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A mass COVID vaccination site at the Oregon Convention Center opened Wednesday with the combined forces of Kaiser Permanente, OHSU, Providence and Legacy Health.

The mass vaccination center will ramp-up to full capacity next week when Providence, Legacy Health and OHSU arrive. But Kaiser Permanente started administering vaccines on Wednesday.

Vaccinations are free.

When all four systems are in place at the Oregon Convention Center, authorities said the plans are to be able to vaccinate up to 7,500 people a day, depending on the supply of the vaccine. Each person vaccinated will be scheduled for their second dose.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will be administered, authorities said.

Oregon remains in Phase 1A of the vaccination process but Pat Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday that a lot of progress has been made in ramping up the state’s vaccinations. Allen said through Tuesday, OHA had administered 238,000 doses and 4.6% of the population has received at least one dose. Oregon now averages 12,000 doses a day.

Information about current vaccine eligibility in Oregon is online: covidvaccine.oregon.gov

“Before we had received a large shipment of Moderna second doses today, we had administered 65% of the doses that were available to be administered in Oregon, which was the eighth highest rate in the country,” said Allen. “We’re now at a place where we can administer virtually as much vaccine as the federal government can provide us.”

Wendy Watson, the chief operating officer of Kaiser Permanente Northwest, said the new mass vaccination site will be crucial in helping reach herd immunity to return Oregon to life post-COVID.

“This isn’t a short-term event: this is something that we will have running for months,” said Watson. “Our ultimate goal is to have it open seven days a week, extended hours, we will scale up over time as vaccine supply is available to those hours.”

Oregon had a slow, bumpy start to rolling out its vaccination efforts. The situation was further complicated when the state learned it would not receive increased vaccine shipments from the federal government. Fewer vaccines mean educators and older adults can’t be vaccinated simultaneously, as Oregon has originally planned. As a result, Governor Kate Brown moved educators and school staff to the front of the line.

“We understand that the vaccine distribution system is imperfect and we’re disappointed that Oregon did not receive additional doses from the federal government this week, but that’s not slowing our efforts to put systems in place to deliver vaccines that will protect the health and safety of millions of people statewide over the longterm,” said Joe Ness, the chief operating officer at OHSU Healthcare.

Trent Green, the senior vice president and COO at Legacy Health, said health officials are working as quickly as possible to roll out the vaccine to more groups of people. As more vaccines become available, people who are eligible to receive the vaccine will be notified. Green urged the public to not call their doctors or hospitals but to be patient.

“A lot of work that still remains to be done but we’re committed to doing this work — we do need your patience. I know people are anxious. And after months of this pandemic, it is really hard to wait,” said Green.

Watch the full press conference

Green said an online scheduling tool will be available to those who are eligible to receive the vaccine. This will ensure a smooth process when people visit the Convention Center to get their shots.

All four healthcare systems have worked hard to make the actual process of getting the vaccine at the Oregon Convention Center as straightforward and efficient as possible. William Olson, the chief operating officer at Providence Oregon, said greeters and way-finders will be the first point of contact and help people navigate the building to get where they need to be. There are many volunteers who have signed up for non-clinical roles and registers who will help people with paperwork and the check-in process. Nurses are on-site for private consults and to answer questions. Clinicians will ultimately administer the vaccine and monitor people for 15-30 minutes to watch for side effects which, Olson said, are rare.