VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shots are on the way, which means local cities need more hands to help get shots into arms.
Virginia Beach City leaders said about 60 city employees are helping with vaccination clinics at the Convention Center. But those clinics need volunteers, too.
After 47 years as a pharmacist, Empsy Munden didn’t want to stop.
“I needed to find something to do with my skills, and this fit the bill just fine,” she said.
Now she’s giving shots at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
“You are helping people using skills that you have,” Munden said.
She volunteers with the Medical Reserve Corps. It’s one of three ways people can help the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health with vaccination efforts.
“They are putting in long hours over a week and it is starting to wear down some people,” said VB Department of Public Health Emergency Manager Bob Engle.
Engle said they need more recruits.
“We’ve got Johnson & Johnson coming online here in the next week or so,” Engle said. “Little bit of an increase in vaccine availability. We want to be able to support that.”
Engle said it takes at least 200 people to run the clinics, and half of them are volunteers. He said there is an urgent need for medical volunteers.
“To be a vaccinator here, you do have to have a medical license,” Engle said. “Although, with the Governor’s recent legislation that he just signed, it can be an expired license within the past 20 years.”
A second volunteer route is through Virginia Beah EMS.
“We are always looking for volunteers, the process is about six months,” said EMS staff Derek Fuller.
Fuller, a Black EMS member, is working double time but said comforting others is rewarding.
“I had a lady waiting on me, she was a Black lady,” Fuller said. “I keep an eye on the line every once in a while. She saw me and wanted to come over and get vaccinated by me. We talk to people, reassure them.”
A third option is joining the city’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Engle said there’s plenty to do, even without a medical background.
“We have the screening process that is conducted when somebody enters the convention center,” Engle said. “We have the registration process and we have the convention flow, pushing people through this clinic.”
Even the National Guard is lending a hand at the convention center this week. They are training to help out across the state.
Engle said they are recruiting more people now to combat any possible volunteer fatigue. He said they are also allocating more vaccines to pharmacies and private practices so they can help with the efforts and manpower needed to vaccinate Virginia Beach.
Whichever path you take to join, every volunteer’s role is vital to the operation.
“You are doing it just because you feel like doing it,” Munden said. “It’s a good feeling when you leave at night.”