For several months now, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units across the country have been supporting COVID-19 vaccination clinics of all sizes. From mobile clinics to large-scale drive-thru sites, volunteers have filled a variety of roles. This month we highlight two units supporting large-scale clinics in their communities.
Denton County MRC (Denton, TX)
The Denton County MRC serves Denton County in Texas which is home to approximately 700,000 people. The unit activated the second week of March in 2020 with call center operations; work that continued for six-to-seven months. They then began supporting COVID-19 testing clinics. In December and January the unit began supporting vaccinations. The unit now mans a 16-lane drive-thru Point of Dispensing (POD) at the Texas Motor Speedway. Roughly 300 volunteers in two, six-hour shifts support the clinic which has administered as many as 14,947 shots in one day. The unit has supported as many as four of these large-scale PODs in one week. As racing season is underway at the site, they are now supporting one clinic weekly at the Motor Speedway and averaging 10,000-11,000 shots per day.
MRC volunteers fulfill every role at clinics except for vaccinators. They draw the vaccine, provide medical screening and observation, man traffic control, volunteer check in, and registration. Having done PODs previously, and drive-thru testing earlier in the pandemic, helped to prepare the unit for their current drive-thru PODs. In addition to on-site support, two shifts of 15 volunteers come in twice a week to support prep work for the clinics. They make copies, clean supplies, and unbox and prep supplies for the week. This necessary work is a great option for those volunteers who can’t physically be at the POD, but want to help out in a big way.
Unit Leader Seth Roberts advises others preparing for large-scale PODs to talk with those who have done it. “Know your situation, your mission, and what you’d like to accomplish,” said Seth. “Find out what works best for your unit.”
MRC Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
The MRC Los Angeles serves one of the most diverse and populous counties in the nation. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had nearly 2,000 active volunteers, and since then the unit has grown by nearly 50% to 2,755 clinical and non-clinical volunteers.
The MRC Los Angeles unit was first activated for COVID-19 response in March 2020 to assist the Department of Public Health with Isolation/Quarantine site medical oversight, health monitoring, and wellness checks for persons who had tested positive for COVID-19 or were waiting for COVID-19 test results and did not have a permanent home. During this deployment, 20 MRC volunteers provided 520 hours of service.
Since January 2021, the MRC Los Angeles has been activated to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts at large-scale “Drive-up” POD sites for vaccine, and smaller “Walk-up” PODs. The Drive-up PODs locates throughout the County. Each POD vaccinates an average of about 2,200 persons daily, seven days a week for approximately 10-hour shifts.
During the first three months of deployment to the POD sites, MRC volunteers contributed more than 2,000 volunteer hours assisting with client registration, screening, vaccine administration, and monitoring for adverse reactions at the PODs, including support to the pharmacy team for vaccine distribution and vaccine preparation.
During the past several years, MRC volunteers were trained, exercised, and deployed to the Emergency School-Located Vaccination (ESLV) and Medical Points of Dispensing (MPOD) sites for seasonal flu vaccines to enhance capabilities to serve the diverse and vulnerable population of LA County and work cohesively as team in responding to public health emergencies. During 2020, the unit modified existing plans, conducted training and exercises to prepare for COVID-19 Vaccine missions, practiced drive-through operations, and implemented additional use of PPEs and social distancing guidelines.
Having trained and exercised to plans in preparation of public health emergencies are essential to successfully accomplishing response missions. During the COVID-19 response, it became important to adopt a flexible approach of assigning volunteers into roles that may not align with their professional occupation and skill sets to meet the large-scale efforts of delivering vaccination to multiple community efforts.