By Stephani Dingreville

Amid continued rise in covid cases, Corrales Fire Department vaccination efforts shine.

It is 6:29 on a sunny, busy Wednesday evening at the Corrales Recreation Center. Amid the happy din of the skate park and multiple youth soccer practices, a line of about 20 cars snakes through the parking lot, a grim, unwelcome reminder that the pandemic is not yet finished with Corrales.

At 6:30 on the dot, the first car at the curb is met by Corrales firefighter Megan Molinari. Molinari's job tonight is to gather the patient’s name and appointment information. She runs this information up to volunteer firefighter Bryah Lattin-Montaño, who sits behind a makeshift desk on the curb and inputs the name into the New Mexico Department of Health database.

Lattin-Montaño confirms the appointment, and checks for any past negative vaccine reaction or allergies. Then Fire Chief Anthony Martinez and Firefighter Eamonn Cole actually administer the vaccine, each taking a different car.

The patient is then instructed to park in the rec center parking lot and wait 15 minutes, to make sure there is no negative reaction to the vaccine.

The Corrales firefighters are incredibly efficient this evening, the entire process only takes about 30 minutes for Corraleña Lucy Hays. Hays has an immune deficiency. and has come in tonight for her booster shot.  Although she received her first two shots outside of Corrales, she read about this clinic in the Comment and decided to try it for her booster. “The whole process has been very easy so far,” she reports just as she is about to pull up to the curb.

This is a scene that has played out many times in Corrales since February of this year, when the vaccine first became available. In fact, vaccine coordinator Battalion Commander Tanya Lattin estimates that she has personally given 7,000 vaccines at various Corrales clinics like this. As the night goes on, and the cars keep lining up, Lattin’s job is to run inside the center and mix vaccine vials as they are needed.

Tonight the Pfizer vaccine is on the menu, which is an extremely finicky vaccine to handle. It must be stored at the fire department in a special freezer that can keep the vaccine at a frosty -91 degrees Fahrenheit. Once thawed, it remains viable for only 30 days. Within that time it must be mixed with saline, and a complicated dance ensues in which the bottles must be inverted a certain amount of times in a certain way.

After the vaccine has been mixed with the saline, the shelf-life shrinks to a very brief six hours. The Corrales Fire Department is responsible for every vial, and if their numbers don’t match up with the number of appointments that have been made with the DOH, explanations are required. This makes vaccine preparation extremely difficult for Lattin, who takes the laborious job in stride.

Even though August 2021 has been one of the worst months for positive Corrales COVID cases, Lattin believes Corrales’ vaccination numbers are very good. She attributes the rise in cases to a combination of many factors, including the relaxation of the mask mandate, school reentry, and plain old pandemic fatigue. “I believe cases will go down again in September, then they might climb again in November as we saw last year” Lattin says.

Corrales has 423 positive COVID cases as of the Comment deadline September 20. Thirty-seven of those cases have been added in the first weeks of September. Compared to the tally inSeptember 2020, when Corrales had just one positive case, this number can seem overwhelming. But thanks to the continued efforts of  the fire department and especially Battalion Commander Lattin, villagers can rest assured that Corrales is getting the protection it needs to face the months ahead.

The clinic at the Recreation Center is ongoing, every Wednesday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Various other clinics are available throughout the week at the Corrales Fire Department. Appointments can be made at cvvaccine.nmhealth.org or by calling the fire department at 898-7501.

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