While state-run vaccine hubs have had the highest volume of people receiving vaccines, CSEA members working for different counties have played vital roles in coordinating smaller local clinics.
Among those helping take the lead are workers from county health departments and county emergency services departments, whose workers’ career expertise in this area has been invaluable.
With batches of vaccine doses being delivered at different times and in different quantities, workers from other county departments have volunteered to help their co-workers run county vaccine clinics.
In Orange County, for example, probation officers stepped up to volunteer for a recent clinic that vaccinated 1,000 people in one day.
Pamela Cole, a shop steward for the Orange County Unit, expressed pride in her co-workers’ volunteerism and said it showed how county workers have come together during the pandemic for the betterment of the public.
“I’m proud of them stepping up to help the community and assist in any way needed,” said Cole, who noted that probation officers also have continued volunteering to handle Meals on Wheels delivery routes for homebound county residents.
All hands on deck
While CSEA members in health care have played a major role, you don’t have to be a health care worker to make a difference in getting New Yorkers vaccinated against COVID-19.
Just ask Ulster County Unit President J. Kirk Jones, who works in the county’s Information Services department. Not only has Jones seen how workers from a number of county departments have played crucial roles in setting up and running county vaccine clinics, he’s been involved in the work himself and has seen the difference the collaboration is making in the community.
“It’s a big collaborative effort,” said Jones. “CSEA members doing all different types of work have been involved and management has been right alongside us. We’re seeing the county Health and Mental Health departments, Information Services, the Department of Public Works, the Sheriff’s Department, and more, all doing their part.”
Setting up a vaccine clinic isn’t just a matter of securing vaccine doses, which have been in short supply. Jones said setting up the command centers at different clinics the county has held requires plenty of advance work.
“For my department, we’re figuring out what kind of hardware we need in order to get up and running,” said Jones. “At our clinic in Ellenville, we received such amazing support from both the facilities and computer techs at the high school there, where we held a clinic. They pitched in to help us get everything up and running.”
For Jones, whose work normally keeps him behind the scenes, the vaccine clinics have been a chance to enjoy the gratification that comes with helping the public. Many of his co-workers have expressed the same feeling, he said.
“The best part is when a senior citizen tells you, ‘thank you, this vaccine may have saved my life,’” said Jones. “Getting vaccine appointments online has been a particular challenge for many of them. I have a PC on site and can get them set up for their second appointment, and they’re just so thankful. In my years with the county, this is the time when I’ve most felt like I’m making a difference.”
— Jessica Ladlee