By Meredith Hughes
It was big news a week ago, when the University of New Mexico opened its Health COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at The Pit, the university’s basketball arena. Those in charge had hoped to inoculate 3,000 people a day at The Pit, but started out doing about 1,700 a day, then, on the day this reporter got there, 700. The entire operation was efficient, friendly, and professional —there were traffic control people guiding cars into the enormous parking lot. There were greeters, doing the obvious in the huge Pit walkway area, lined with tables or numbered stations. Most all shuffling through appeared to be in the “elder” category.
There were “runners,” aiding supply drop-offs; “scribes,” who checked in patients and handed out small paper cards; vaccine preparers, and of course, vaccinators, these latter two categories filled only by medical pros. The Pfizer shot administered, by a pediatric specialist, a longtime nurse from New Jersey, retired, and now a volunteer, guided the recipient to an open space near some exit doors, the space filled with socially distanced folding chairs. On which one sat, either for 15 minutes, or 30, depending on what one had admitted to, allergy-wise.
Here the “post injection observers” roamed, looking for signs of imminent collapse among the fully masked occupants, who checked phones, and noted the appointment for shot number two on that little card, roughly three weeks in the future. And then rose, to exit The Pit when appropriate. Or maybe some people scooted out early.
After an essentially positive experience, one soon noted the news was filled with reports that The Pit would close for a week. Not enough vaccine, even with assistance from N.M. Senator Martin Heinrich. Supply chains are iffy everywhere, and N.M. Health was concerned, rightly, that people awaiting shot number two, had to be considered. Hence, the pause on administering the first shot.
Meanwhile, on January 28, “Oregon health workers who got stuck in a snowstorm on their way back from a COVID-19 vaccination event went car to car injecting stranded drivers before several of the doses expired….” January 29, according to the Washington Post, “…staff and volunteers with Seattle’s Swedish Health Services had been rushing to administer hundreds of doses of the coronavirus vaccine set to expire early in the morning after a freezer malfunction. Finally, they had only a few dozen shots left and about 15 minutes to get them into people’s arms.”
“In the end, none of the more than 1,600 soon-to-expire doses in Seattle were wasted, health officials said, after a colossal scramble that showcased both the enormous pressure on those immunizing millions of Americans and the hope these vaccine doses have brought. The rollout of shots nationwide has been plagued with bottlenecks, frustrations and disagreements over who should get protection first.”
Good people are stepping up everywhere, and working hard to get these pesky vaccines into waiting arms. In fact, New Mexico is among the top ten states/US territories in getting that first shot to people. Do register for the vaccine at https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org, create a profile, and wait. A text and email will arrive regarding your appointment. Really.