Volunteers who helped in the coronavirus vaccination efforts in Montgomery County, Maryland, are sharing their experience and why they decided to get involved.
The mass vaccination site at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College will shut down Friday, and those operations will shift to the Upcounty Regional Services Center on Middlebrook Road.
Volunteers with the Maryland Responds Medical Reserve Corps helped out at the Germantown site. Among them was Michael Brown of Montgomery Village.
Brown, who retired after a career with the National Park Service, said he wasn’t administering shots but instead helped with logistics and organized people in line as they got ready to get their vaccinations.
His past experience dealing with crowds at National Park Service sites, and his patience, came in handy. He recalls how, especially as people were getting their first shots, some were anxious.
“Some were very nervous; some were frightened to death. There were a range of emotions,” he said. “And some people just don’t like shots.”
Brown decided to help at the mass vaccination site, where he dealt with crowds for long hours, because, “You’re part of the community. In order to have a good, functioning community, people have to participate.”
As the mass vaccination site winds down, the effort to get every resident vaccinated continues, with members of community outreach teams bolstered by volunteers, such as Gail Gugel of Silver Spring.
Gugel, who speaks Spanish, decided to put her language skills to work in a community hit hard by the coronavirus. She signed up as a volunteer in late March.
Among the things she heard from people, especially young women, who decided not to get vaccinated was a fear of infertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that there was no evidence that the vaccines would make you infertile.
“People outlined misinformation that they had been fed,” Gugel said. “I had a few people, not a lot, who believed that microchips would be implanted in them via the vaccine.”
Gugel said she got good advice from another volunteer on how to listen to the concerns of the people she was talking to, and to offer personal experience.
“I described my own vaccination experience. I always said it hurt because it did,” she said.
The key was often explaining that she and her children had been vaccinated. “In my case, I always said, my adult children, a male and a female, are fine. I’m fine,” Gugel said.
While she was working in the Langley Crossroads area early on, Gugel said a man asked her about the coronavirus vaccine, and she registered him on the spot for a vaccination at a nearby CVS.
“He went over; he got the vaccine; he came back and gave me a big high-five. Showed me his vaccine card, and it just felt fantastic that this individual was a little safer. That was my highlight,” Gugel said.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told council members that 80% of the county’s residents who are eligible for the vaccine — those 12 and older — have been vaccinated.
“In the last month — are you ready for this? In the last 30 days, we’ve seen 225 cases. If you recall, we had days where we have more than 225 cases, and we certainly had weeks where we had more than 225 cases,” Gayles said.
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