A group of 400 medical volunteers is organizing to begin vaccinating residents of La Plata County who are 70 and older, hoping to hold their first event possibly in the second half of the month.
Karen Zink, a certified nurse practitioner with Southwest Women’s Health Associates and member of the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Team, said the group built on the same organizational structure that offers the 9Health Fair in Durango.
Eventually, it is looking to offer at least one event weekly aimed at vaccinating the county’s 70 and older population.
Appointments for the weekly events would be based on when people signed up to receive vaccination alerts from San Juan Basin Health Department.
“Our communication team will get in touch with people either through a phone call or email based on when they signed up for San Juan Basin’s vaccination alerts. People can go to the portal to sign up to let us know that they’re interested in getting a vaccine. So that’s the way to get on the list,” Zink said.
Zink said email would be ideal because the vaccination teams would like to email people a form to fill out before they get the shot so they don’t have to fill it out at the vaccination event.
The problem in setting up definite vaccine events, Zink said, is that the number of vaccine doses being shipped to counties is known only a few days in advance, which makes advance planning difficult.
“Our health department has no control over how many doses we get. It just has to do with vaccine availability and distribution across the state,” she said.
She does expect 350 doses will be available for the first vaccine event the team would like to hold.
Dixie Melton, owner of Ignacio Family Medicine, also is working on establishing similar vaccine events for people 70 and older in Ignacio.
A planning committee, including Los Pinos Fire Protection District, the Ignacio School District, the town of Ignacio and Melton, plans to hold drive-thru vaccination clinics in Ignacio for residents 70 and older.
“We’re still in the planning stages,” she said. “We’re trying to determine when and where we might be able to hold them, working out all the logistics, but hopefully we’ll be up and running, probably toward the end of the month, and hopefully it will be faster than that.”
Zink said once the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Team has been given a first round of doses of the vaccine it has been assured it will receive the second round of doses to make the inoculations complete.
If given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, people will be called three weeks after their initial shot for the follow-up vaccination. If given the Moderna vaccine, people will be called four weeks later for their follow-up.
After the vaccination has been administered, Zink said people will be asked to remain for 15 minutes to ensure they don’t have a reaction. For people who have had past vaccine reactions, they will be asked to wait 30 minutes.
“We will have volunteers checking cars to make sure everyone’s OK. There’s actually been very few reactions to the vaccine,” she said. “So we don’t expect people to have trouble with the vaccination when they get it. But we will be prepared if someone has a problem.”
The Community COVID-19 Vaccination Team, Zink said, is a group of 400 volunteer medical professionals donating their time and expertise to administer vaccinations in La Plata County. The team is working in conjunction with San Juan Basin Public Health.
“These will be all volunteers. So it’s remarkable that about 400 medical professionals in our community want to help get everyone vaccinated,” she said. “We have no paid staff, but we have all professional staff.”
Zink said the more people who are vaccinated, the better.
“If we don’t get enough people vaccinated for COVID, we can’t get our kids back in school reliably. We can’t open our restaurants. We can’t feel as safe in our grocery stores,” she said. “Vaccinations are the key to a solid economy, a good education for the kids, and preventing overflow at our health care facilities.”