North Central Public Health District wishes to thank the many volunteers who have helped make possible our ever-larger and more frequent vaccine clinics, as we work together on our best chance to help end the pandemic.
Retired RN Kurt Rohrbacher worked in the ER and with cancer patients for most of his career at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. It’s safe to say that most of the people he encountered weren’t thrilled to be there.
But now, as a Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) volunteer at NCPHD’s vaccine clinics, he gives “instant joy” to people when he vaccinates them, he said.
Rohrbacher is one of over 80 active volunteers who have given over 800 hours of their time to our community.
NCPHD Interim Director Shellie Campbell said, “We are so grateful for the dozens of people who have stepped up to volunteer for us. We wouldn’t be able to offer our vaccine clinics without them.”
NCPHD draws volunteers from the Wasco County MRC unit housed within its agency. The MRC unit has over 60 deployable volunteers active in the COVID response, including doctors, RNs, and other healthcare workers, both active and retired. Other community-based volunteers help out on behalf of their organizations.
Involved community-based organizations include Wasco County, City of The Dalles, Oregon Department of Human Services Self-Sufficiency Office, The Next Door, Inc., One Community Health, and Hat Creek Consulting.
NCPHD’s first clinic saw 50 people. Now we regularly see 300 people come through the doors per clinic.
MRC volunteer Kris McNall also volunteers with Mosier Fire and knew she would be one of the first offered the vaccine. A self-described “obsessive researcher,” who is “unafraid of very technical papers,” she learned that the mRNA vaccines like the Moderna vaccine offered by NCPHD “aren’t as new as we think they are;
they’ve been under development for decades.”
And that has helped her to address the single biggest issue she hears from people: that the vaccine “is so new.” She said, “I tell them about the reading I did and how it made me feel comfortable.”
Others worry about getting sick. “I tell them it’s not too bad, and that the side effects are their immune system kicking Covid Butt and that’s a good thing.”
Like Rohrbacher, she saw elation. “Many people are joyous in a way you wouldn’t expect from someone who is about to get a shot.”
McNall volunteers because the work is both important and satisfying. As someone who got the vaccine early, she felt it was important to use her privilege as someone who already has protection from COVID to help others.
“I especially enjoy when someone getting their shot is visibly happy at what it means for their life. Also, the staff at NCPHD is wonderful to work with; they make me feel valuable and listen when I have a suggestion. They always say thank you, which means a lot when one is volunteering.”
Volunteers can have several jobs, from registering to vaccinating to observing people after their vaccine. McNall’s favorite is vaccinating people, “because so many of the people who come for their shot are so positive about the opportunity to lose the fear of Covid and slowly return to more social lives. It’s super satisfying to
give people their jab and tell them that they are on their way to protection from the disease.”
McNall gets “tons of comments on how smooth and efficient the experience is” at the vaccine clinics.
Rohrbacher agrees, and said “it takes a whole good group of people to turn out something as quality” as the vaccine clinics, “so bravo.”
Eric White volunteers because “the pandemic has been so challenging for so many in our community and I think it is important to make vaccination as widely available as possible so we can get through this.”
White often is the first person people see when they walk into the clinics, which are held at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center. The most comment feedback he hears are from people impressed with their smooth experience. “I think many people expect long lines and maybe some chaos and they are pleasantly surprised.”
As the first people clients see, White feels its important to help people “feel comfortable and confident in our operation.” He sees a range of reaction, from people running in the door in excitement to folks afraid of needles regardless of what the vaccine is, to those worried about side effects.
He tells people who are anxious to not feel rushed with the paperwork, and urges them to feel comfortable telling the vaccinator about concerns they might have.
He said he wanted to volunteer because he knew there would be lots of vaccines to distribute and a big demand for it. “I contacted all the local health departments and said, ‘You guys are going to need us.’” He volunteers with NCPHD since it was the first to reach out to sign him up.
His goal is to keep volunteering until he feels everyone 50 and older has easily gotten it. So far, he’d say the median age he’s seen is about 70 years old.”
Rohrbacher feels it’s important for grandparents to be able to be with their grandkids, and “the best way to get that to happen is to get the grandparents safe.”
Wasco County MRC Coordinator Tanya Wray said, “I have been so impressed with the dedication and professionalism of the MRC volunteers during the COVID response. It’s been an honor and a pleasure getting to know each of them and I honestly can’t imagine having done this without them.”
If you are interested in becoming an MRC volunteer, please visit https://www.ncphd.org/medical-reserve- corps to learn more and to register.
(For more information, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600, find us on Facebook, or visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org)