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A shot of hope. Carle volunteers join the fight against COVID-19

A shot of hope. Carle volunteers join the fight against COVID-19
When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorization on December 11, 2020, it was the pharmaceutical equivalent of the moon landing. Prior to then, vaccines could take years to reach approval, and the World Health Organization had speculated that it would take at least 18 months to achieve the feat. But less than a year after health officials declared COVID-19 a pandemic, we were putting shots in arms, thanks to the vaccine and help from a growing army of Carle volunteers.
 
“When Jennifer Hunzinger offered me a position at the entrance door of the Marketplace clinic, it seemed like a good fit,” Valarie Nelson, a Carle volunteer with 30 years of experience as a psychiatric nurse, said. “With my past history, I was able to calm people as they came in, answer questions and provide support.”

Nelson said she was “pleasantly surprised” at how well thought out the clinic was. If things seemed neat and orderly, it was only because of the Herculean effort behind the scenes to put everything in place.
 
During National Volunteer Week, we’re recognizing those who answered the call to help.
 
From the start, it was a major operation, with Carle coordinating the vaccine response in counties across the regions. In Champaign, Coles, Vermilion, McLean and Woodford counties, Carle administered clinics directly, while in others it assisted public health clinics active in the field. The first shot came on December 17, 2020, at Carle’s main hospital in Urbana. As of April 12, Carle had delivered 88,931 shots throughout central Illinois, in shopping malls, churches and other community spaces.
 
Cheryl Jackson, service Auxiliary board president at Carle BroMenn Medical Center, said she was inspired to help after hearing first-hand reports of the pandemic from her daughter, who’s a pulmonologist in Nashville. “Through her stories, I heard how devastating COVID-19 can be and the toll it takes on the patients, families and healthcare workers,” Jackson said. “I know the vaccine is the quickest route to ending the pandemic and want to do all that I can.”
 
While Jackson assisted with check-in and scheduling in Bloomington, Marilyn Weidner, monitored patients after their injections in Eureka, where she saw a tremendous amount of gratitude on display. “Everyone was so happy to receive the vaccine,” Weidner said. “I was proud that I could be part of hopefully ending this virus.”
 
For many volunteers, it was the latest assignment in a long career of service, but for student volunteer Satheesh Tamilselvan, you could say it was more a case of baptism by fire.
 
“The vaccine clinic was the first thing I did as a volunteer at Carle,” he said.
 
The molecular cellular biology student from the University of Illinois handed out consent forms at the front of the clinic and worked to keep patients socially distanced. As a volunteer, he was glad to help. But as a student, he was also excited to see firsthand how a vaccine clinic worked in the midst of a pandemic. What surprised him most was the sheer demand for the shot, which held the promise of a return to normal life.
 
The volunteers helping with the vaccine clinics are among nearly 1,800 at Carle who carried out more than 84,500 hours of service to our patients and staff last year. While COVID-19 restrictions kept many from serving in 2020, we’re grateful for the dedication and ongoing support of all our amazing volunteers. Thanks for ensuring that care at Carle is always second to none.

Categories: Culture of Quality

Tags: Carle, Health, vaccine, volunteers

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