Two hundred eighty vaccines per hour.
That’s a rough average of the number of shots health workers gave at Nueces County COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinics in early February.
The efficiency of the local health district’s vaccination effort is thanks in part to the volunteer work of local doctors and nurses, including students and faculty members at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Altogether, about 40 students and 20 faculty members have pitched in at clinics at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds and the American Bank Center, said Sara Baldwin, associate dean of academic programs in the university’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
She said the health district began seeking volunteers over the Christmas break.
A “smorgasbord” of local health professionals have volunteered to administer vaccines, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said, but “it’s very definite that Texas A&M is really putting forth a huge effort.”
“We’re able to tap into that precious resource,” she said. “You can’t say enough about what it means to have an institution of higher learning in your backyard.
“I know that public health will never, ever forget their contributions.”
Baldwin, a public health nurse, assisted with administering vaccines for four full days, and the process has become smoother each time, she said.
The day begins with a huddle to discuss logistics, such as safety measures and how to keep the lines moving quickly. At the clinics, multiple health professionals extract doses into syringes to keep a constant flow of shots ready.
“You’re tired by the end of it,” Baldwin said. “And there’s not a lot of talking because they want to keep the lines moving.”
Some student volunteers are “repeaters” who love working at the clinics so much that they come back.
One of those is Monika Morin, a fifth-semester nursing student who serves as president of the campus Student Nurses Association. Morin has volunteered at five clinics, at both the fairgrounds and the American Bank Center.
Students work in half-day shifts, such as from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Morin said student volunteers focus on injecting shots and directing visitors to a parking area, where they must wait for 15 minutes with emergency medical service workers on standby in case anyone has allergic reactions.
“I really enjoy being a part of the solution, being able to help the community,” Morin said. “It’s really a humbling experience to see people that are coming up to you in the drive-thru and they’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, finally. I haven’t seen my family.’”
Students are learning more than the inoculation itself, Baldwin said.
“They’re seeing the big picture of what it takes to respond to a pandemic as far as disaster preparedness,” she said. “I think they were thinking themselves, ‘Should I get the vaccine, shouldn’t I?’ And they saw the overwhelming response … that the community values disease prevention more than I think they realize.
“It takes a whole village to operate something like this. I think that’s what the students are learning.”
Morin appeared in a photo accompanying a Wall Street Journal article on Jan. 26 about vaccine distribution. In the photo, Morin, dressed in protective gear, injects a shot into a woman’s arm at the fairgrounds drive-thru.
“It was a surreal moment,” Morin said of being featured in the publication.
“I can show my kids that and show them however many years down the road that I was part of this, and this is so much bigger than we are. People have been waiting for this a whole year, almost, and it’s finally here, and to be a part of it was just amazing.”
And Morin was able to vaccinate her own father at the fairgrounds, she said, “so that was really special.”
Vicky Camarillo covers Nueces County and statewide issues. See our subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe.