Vaccine Heroes Strike Again

By Kat Tillman

It seems like there is no shortage of twists and turns as the vaccine rollout continues across the world. Yesterday in Washington State, we saw the latest of developments when Governor Inslee placed a hold on the administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines for what the State Department of Health calls an ‘abundance of caution.’

VillageReach volunteers Chongsun Ahn, Trisha Patek, Mi Le, Christine Lenihan, Sierra Petrosky standing outside a Seattle-King County Public Health Clinic from where they transport vaccines to high volume sites on a daily basis.
VillageReach Vaccine Heroes from right to left: Chongsun Ahn, Trisha Patek, Mi Le, Christine Lenihan, Sierra Petroskyoutside a Seattle-King County Public Health Clinic from where they transport vaccines to high volume sites on a daily basis.

For VillageReach, we recognize that safety is the most important aspect of this rollout, and trust the FDA and CDC’s expertise to ensure the safety of these vaccines. Two of our staff, Vidya Sampath and Erin Larsen-Cooper*, have been working on the King County Public Health COVID-19 Vaccine Delivery Program since winter.

And it goes without saying that yesterday was a logistical challenge for the team managing operations just outside of Seattle, King County. There were booked appointments and prepared supply to vaccinate nearly a 1,000 people with the vaccine.

A herculean effort

Instead of cancelling or rescheduling, the King County Public Health team worked with Vidya, and another volunteer from VillageReach, Chongsun Ahn, to pivot quickly to the Moderna vaccine and avoid turning clients away. This entailed adjusting, repacking, preparing, and transporting nearly 900 doses of Moderna vaccines and supplies, so they could remain open and not miss a beat toward the April 15 goal to make vaccines available for all.

There continues to be vaccine heroes showing up every day to help tame the pandemic that has controlled our lives for long enough, and Team VillageReach has been doing its share. When I heard of the efforts of my colleagues, I knew that this was another story that had to be told. Since March 1, the Vaccine Transport Team has helped to courier vaccines to and from the high volume sites on a daily basis; they include Christine Lenihan, Mi Le, Trisha Patek, and Sierra Petrosky. By Vidya’s estimates, the team has contributed to approximately 70,000 people receiving their vaccines to date. This is truly inspiring — amazing.

Equity must not go missed

Many of us are happy to hear everyone talk about upcoming vaccine appointments. Plans and activities, like summer vacations, going to the movies, seeing family and on, are now set in motion. With another tool beyond masks, normalcy just might be in grasp.

But we simply must not lose sight of equity. For many, there are still challenges with being registered for appointments and then to reach vaccine sites. Please look to help those in your community who are in need. Washington has two ways to help people sign up for a vaccine: a multilingual telephone hotline at 800–525–0127 or through the state’s vaccine locator tool.

It is through the collaboration of my colleagues, King County Public Health, the Washington State Department of Health, the contributions of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, residents across the region, that we will reach a place where doors across the community can reopen. We are closer than ever to a life where we can be together, again.

*See the video where Vidya Sampath and Erin Larsen-Cooper offer an overview of the design approach to scale a local hockey rink into a vaccine site.

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