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COVID-19 Vaccine Volunteers Encourage Others to Join Effort

By Ian Rollins

The COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics have concluded and volunteers are no longer needed. Samaritan appreciates the many community volunteers who helped with the vaccination efforts in our area. Thank you for helping us to build healthier communities together!

Bill Howden retired from a 35-year health care career in 2019, but not completely. When the opportunity came to administer COVID-19 vaccines, he jumped at the chance. 

“This has been the most significant health crisis of my career, and I wanted to do my part to put this pandemic behind us,” said Howden, who retired as vice president of Patient Services from Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. “We’ve tried to abate this as much as possible with masks, physical distancing and hand hygiene, but these vaccines are the most concrete thing we can do to get this pandemic under control and get life back to normal.”

Ann Shriver of Corvallis agreed.

“I’m supportive of the science behind the vaccines, and I wanted to do my part in making this happen,” said Shriver, a retired faculty member of the Applied Economics Department from Oregon State University.

Shriver has volunteered twice for the clinics at Reser Stadium. She volunteered once with Samaritan Health Services, checking patients in as they arrived. The second time, she volunteered with Benton County, guiding patients through the various stages of the clinic.

“The people getting their vaccinations, they go through so many emotions, from excitement to anxiety,” Shriver said. “It’s a large space where these clinics take place, and people aren’t always sure where to go. They need a friendly voice, someone to help them and someone to celebrate with. It was so emotionally and morally rewarding to help them and be part of this.”

Howden, who has administered COVID-19 vaccinations since they were first available in December, agreed.

“It’s been energizing on so many levels,” he said. “You see all of these professionals coming together to get the vaccines disseminated to help the community. So many people are giving of their time and expertise. And the people coming for the vaccinations are so appreciative and excited to get the shot.”

“It’s exciting to be part of something momentous,” said Willow Christensen, a post-partum nurse at the Corvallis hospital who has also been administering COVID-19 vaccinations since December.

As more vaccine is shipped to the region in the coming weeks, Samaritan and its county partners are seeking to recruit up to 1,000 more medically trained volunteers for mass vaccination clinics. These volunteers are needed to screen patients at check-in, administer vaccinations and observe patients for potential adverse reactions following their vaccination.

Christensen said she has done each of these duties.

“It helps to be flexible, and this way I can help out wherever needed,” she said.

Various shifts are available, ranging from half-day to full-day. The Centers for Disease Control requires vaccinators to do a computer-based training before volunteering. This training can be done at home.

All other training for medical tasks is done after the volunteer checks in and before the clinic opens.

Specific medical positions that can be used include:

  • Physicians.
  • Medical residents with preceptor.
  • Pharmacists and pharmacy interns.
  • Nurse practitioners or physician assistants.
  • Nurses: RN or LPN.
  • Nursing students.
  • Medical assistants.
  • Dentists.
  • Emergency medical technician/emergency medical service providers.

Shriver said this volunteer opportunity is perfect for anyone who is tired of being isolated from others.

“You feel like you’re part of the community again when you’re at these clinics, and you’re doing your bit to end this pandemic,” she said. “I will definitely be back.”

Howden said he plans to volunteer as many times as possible, as long as the clinics continue.

“It’s really a shot in the arm, no pun intended,” he said. “As health professionals, we are dedicated to caring for everyone who comes through our doors. This is an opportunity to have that same impact on a much larger scale.”

“Even if you can only spare for or five hours a week, we can still use your help. You’ll get to see how the vaccination rollout is coming together and be part of history,” Christensen said.