As a greater supply of COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units are ramping up their efforts to help administer it. Plans prepared and practiced are being implemented in communities across the country. This month we highlight two units who have implemented large-scale PODs in recent weeks.
Rock Island MRC
The Rock Island MRC serves and draws volunteers from communities on both sides of the Mississippi River—from Scott County, Iowa, and Rock Island County, Ill. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they had about 180 volunteers. They have since added 72, of which 50 came onboard since vaccinations began.
In September, the MRC volunteers supported a drive-thru flu clinic which served 200 to 300 in one day. Now, through weekly COVID-19 vaccine clinics, about 800 people are vaccinated in a day with plans to ramp up to 1,100 in early March, and more as greater quantity of vaccine becomes available.
Each clinic utilizes 15-20 medical and non-medical MRC volunteers during a seven-hour day.
Volunteers serve a host of roles including parking assistance, check in, temperature checks, post-vaccination observation, and data entry.
“We could not do this without our volunteers,” said Unit Coordinator Kate Meyer. “I’m glad and happy to have MRC in the community to assist us.”
Prior experience really helped Kate to understand what needed to be done to successfully run these clinics and the unit had exercised often. They have real world experience with both drive-thru and walk-thru clinics, and Kate feels confident in the unit’s ability to handle either type of setting.
She advises other unit leaders that it is better to have too many volunteers than not enough, saying that it’s OK to have multiple people assigned to the same position and to give breaks more often if staffing allows.
Delaware County MRC
The Delaware County MRC, just north of Columbus, Ohio, has seen a surge in participation during the pandemic with close to 700 volunteers now part of the unit.
“The community has been very supportive and anxious to go out and assist,” said Unit Leader Travis Irvan. A recent call for volunteers for March resulted in all of the month’s volunteer slots being filled in just 45 minutes.
The unit is assisting with drive-thru clinics six days a week (Monday through Saturday, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm) at several locations around the county. Each of these clinics completes about 100 shots a day with two to four MRC volunteers assisting.
On Super Bowl Sunday the unit assisted with a clinic for K-12 staff, administering 4,000 doses of the vaccine in a single day. The walk-thru clinic, held at a high school gym, ran from 6:30 am to 9:00 pm and included 62 volunteers and 24 vaccination stations.
Earlier this month MRC volunteers supported a second clinic targeted at K-12 staff. In a single day the clinic administered more than 4,800 first and second doses of the vaccine. This clinic looked much the same as the first, however, additional volunteers and staff were added to accommodate 28-30 vaccination stations.
Volunteers serve in a number of roles including working with public health nurses to administer vaccine and non-medical roles like traffic control which includes registering people for their second dose and observation post-vaccine.
Travis advises other unit leaders to not be afraid to ask for help from both partners and internal colleagues. This is an opportunity to “get partners excited to be going on the offense against this virus. Utilize their energy and excitement.”
He also recommends giving people the tools and training needed for success, setting up the infrastructure, and then letting them run with it. “Trust your plans and process,” said Travis.