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Volunteer COVID-19 Vaccinator

Serving as a volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator with the CapRAC Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (NC) has been one of my most rewarding professional experiences. One would think that these roles are plentiful, in reality finding the public health entity seeking volunteers is challenging and not easy to find. In North Carolina, finding the volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator position involved some detective work, and stamina to complete the application and training process. The reward of being approved as a volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator and signing up for my first outdoor, drive-by mass vaccination shift was exciting.

My fellow vaccinators

My first volunteer COVID-19 vaccinator assignment

The weather was dismal, 340, rainy, and windy! My co-vaccinators and recorders were amazing. They included nurses from a variety of settings, physicians, and county employees all dedicated to the mission. We had a tent that covered the supplies and kept our documenters dry. As I approached each car:

  • I ensured that the car was in “park”
  • Reviewed the key clinical issues
  • Gave the appropriate documentation to my documented
  • Obtained the prefilled syringe of vaccine and adhesive bandage
  • Administered the shot
  • Disposed of the supplies
  • Sanitized
  • Imparted the precious white CDC vaccination card
  • Provided follow-up instructions
  • Got ready to repeat the process with the next carload full of hopeful individuals.
The precious vaccination record

Greeted with gratitude

Expressions of gratitude began when the windows were rolled down, and individuals presented their arms even before I had the opportunity to say anything. “Thank you for being here in this weather,” “you are angels to be doing this,” “you have no idea what this means to us.” Such comments were heard from each of the individuals in the vehicles. Some individuals even wanted pictures marking the event’s significance. No complaints relating to wait times or registration frustrations were shared, just expressions of gratitude, so grateful for obtaining the vaccine.

Covid-19 vaccination lighter moments

Despite the fast-paced vaccination process, some situations made me smile. Throughout the pandemic, my deep-down secret desire was to be the mask monitor. Now was my “mask monitoring” wish was coming true. Despite signage and advance notices, it was surprising the number of individuals who drove up without wearing their mask or wearing it incorrectly. No chin warmers in my line! No mask, no shot! Pointing to my mask and waving the syringe quickly got the mask in place and the vaccination process rolling.

Given the cold weather, several male vaccination seekers wore leather biker jackets. In their eagerness to get vaccinated, they were surprised that they needed to remove the jacket. On more than one occasion, I had to remind them that the needle on the syringe could not go through the leather jacket! Several individuals asked if it mattered which arm they got their shot in. Others asked if they should get the second shot in the other arm!

COVID-19 vaccination touching moments

Several of the cars rolled up with the driver having a loved one in the passenger seat suffering from dementia. It was obvious that it was a big effort to get this individual to the vaccination event. The expressions of relief by the caregivers at the end of the vaccination process were very touching. There was a van load of individuals from a group home, each came out of the van, sat in a folding chair for the vaccination, and returned to the van. Teammates came to assist so that the process could be expedited. Teamwork and collaboration were evident throughout the day.

Did you give me the shot?

Given the small size of the needle used in the vaccination process, many individuals shared that they did not feel the shot, and did not realize that it was complete. Often stating “this was nothing compared to what I was expecting.” Once again, comments of gratitude and hope followed. Urging them to share this experience with their friends who may be reluctant to get vaccinated.

A family and friends volunteer experience

During orientation, I learned that non-clinical individuals were being recruited to help with traffic flow and documentation at these mass vaccination events. I became a recruiter, engaging my husband and close friends in helping make a difference in our community.

During one of our “couples” events, I “injected” some humor into the process. My husband was involved with traffic flow. He was the next individual that my carload of vaccinated individuals would encounter. To set the stage, my husband is needle-phobic; he won’t even look at the TV when an injection is given.

For a few of those that mentioned that they did not feel the shot, or were especially complimentary, I asked them to share their experience with the “traffic guy” ahead. Explaining that he is terrified of shots, and never had the opportunity to hear directly from any of my “patients.” These individuals roared with the prospect of having some fun at his expense. On the ride home, my husband shared his experiences of the day, including the fact that he had several individuals who shared with him that the process was painless and the nurse giving the shot was great. I confessed that he was set up. Everyone involved in the ruse had a good laugh.

I will miss this role

Vaccines are now being distributed in greater numbers; pharmacies, clinics, and other locations are augmenting what is being done at the mass vaccination sites. The National Guard is taking a greater role in the process, and I am being demobilized from my medical reserve role. Serving as a vaccinator has been so meaningful, my actionable way to strike back at COVID-19, give hope to others, helping to open back the community.

Action steps:

  • Signup to get vaccinated
  • Help others with the registration process. There is a movement of individuals committed to helping others with the process. It is important to note that who is eligible for the vaccine differs by state and in some cases also by locale. In most cases, appointments are needed, yet the first-come-first serve events are surfacing. At the end of the day, some locations will open up the vaccination effort if a few extra doses are available. Many states have their own locator along with pharmacy chains, Vaccines.govPlan your vaccineFind local COVID vaccine locations
  • In honor of being vaccinated make your contribution! Consider making a donation to a food bank, drive someone for a shot, take some action to promote wellbeing in your community
  • Wear your mask! Wash your hands and keep the physical distance from others
  • Guard your white CDC-vaccination record. Do not post the picture of your vaccination record online, it contains personal identifying information. No doubt that this will be a “passport” of sorts, proving your vaccination status