Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
Local communities working together to vaccinate many
In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, the phrase “We’re in this together” became a little worn, especially as the virus raged through the U.S. hitting communities in different ways.
Health care workers on the front lines and teachers reinventing how to reach their students had more challenging experiences than many office workers who were able to just pick up their laptops and set up shop at home. Jobs in the hospitality industry were devastated, and workers who made a good living on tips suddenly found themselves without any income, in some cases seeking aid at food pantries to feed their families.
The effects of the pandemic differed by generation and income level, hitting hardest in low-income and communities of color who could least afford the time it would take to weather the storm.
The hardships were not equal — although, to be sure, everyone had some hardships, be it loneliness, worries about family members or disruptions to the flow and milestones of our lives. We were all in this, but “together” as one community seemed to fall short as a description.
Now, however, the community is getting a chance to prove itself by joining a collective effort in a cause that benefits everyone — getting shots in the arms of as many people as quickly as possible to stop the virus in its tracks.
In this effort, local people are working together and accomplishing in our towns what our health networks have been struggling to accomplish.
And they’re doing it with a joy in bringing together those who need help and those who want to give.
The past two weekends, 6,500 people have been vaccinated at North Penn High School in a pop-up clinic put on by Skippack Pharmacy. The clinic comes on the heels of other community clinics staged by the pharmacy at the Skippack Firehouse.
In Berks, the Medicine Shoppes of Shillington and Boyertown have acquired enough doses to vaccinate school employees at Boyertown Area High School, the general public at Governor Mifflin High School, and this past weekend, Pottstown residents at the Pottstown Middle School.
The Pottstown vaccination clinic that provided 501 people with the satisfaction of a first shot was a joint effort by the NAACP of Pottstown and The Medicine Shoppe. Ted Josey, retired director of youth services for Montgomery County and a lifetime member of the Pottstown NAACP, was instrumental in getting the site set up with with Ed Hudon, who runs The Medicine Shoppe in Boyertown.
Hudon said it’s the connections to their communities that allow local pharmacists like himself and Mayank Amin, pharmacist and owner of Skippack Pharmacy, to be effective.
Those connections also bring a volunteer corps to each clinic to man the signin desks, help with sorting and administering doses of vaccine, and monitor the waiting period required after each shot.
Each clinic, depending on the size, has been staffed with hundreds of volunteers — nurses coming out of retirement and people both young and old who want to help bring the vaccination process along in this fight against the pandemic.
“The community is the reason why we’re here, and how we’re here. If it wasn’t for these volunteers, there would be no clinic here,” said Amin, at the North Penn site on Sunday. During that Sunday clinic, there were roughly 200 volunteers working across three different shifts from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The success of these efforts has been highlighted and praised as proof that local communities working together can accomplish efficiently the massive vaccination effort required to beat the latest surge of COVID. This is what “being in this together” looks like — the residents of our communities literally rolling up their sleeves to get this done.