Nebraska volunteer organization helps health departments with vaccinations

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 3:28 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As vaccinations are rolling out and ramping up, local health departments are being bolstered by a number of volunteer organizations.

Pam Denney is a retired nurse. It’s a job she held for more than 50 years.

“I retired from being an active nurse in 2018,” said Pam.

These days you’ll find Pam on the frontlines of the pandemic response volunteering with the Eastern Nebraska Medical Reserve Corps.

“We help with anything and everything from first aid services, to shelter support, to now COVID activities,” said Megan Wade.

The coordinator of the Eastern Nebraska MRC, Wade, says the public health non-profit is currently working with three area health departments: Sarpy/Cass, Douglas County, and Three Rivers.

MRC volunteers help with contact tracing, logistics, and mask distribution, paperwork, and monitoring people for adverse reactions, to name some of their duties. But now, as counties continue to vaccinate more people in Phase 1B, their work has been critical at the vaccine clinics.

They’ve helped out with 8 clinics so far this year in Sarpy and Cass counties.

“For the health departments, there’s no way they have the staff to administer all the vaccines,” said Pam. “They just don’t have enough people, so we’re very important for that.”

Pam says the clinics are much different from her hectic days in the emergency room.

”It’s a nice pace where if people have questions and concerns, you can spend time with them as you give the injection and answer questions for them and make them feel more secure as they leave,” said Pam.

Much of the COVID-related work the MRC is doing is actually similar to work they did years ago during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009-2010.

Pam Denney says though the two events are years apart, there are striking similarities - clinics being one of them.

“They did a lot of vaccinations, and we saw a lot of the anxiety that people had then that they have now with COVID,” said Pam, though she thinks because so much is still unknown about COVID, people are more anxious now.

“And a lot of our volunteers were in the medical field at the time and still are and that helps a lot because they had experienced it back then, and know what they’re doing now,” said Megan Wade.

Megan Wade says as time goes on, she is constantly encouraged by the number of dedicated people wanting to volunteer their time with the MRC.

“Before COVID we had 65 volunteers,” said Megan Wade. “In the last 2 months, we’ve received more than 140 applications. Our unit is looking at 185, it’s been amazing, an amazing response.”

She says the applications come from people in every profession, and every background and they’re always looking for more volunteers. Nationwide in 2020, the Medical Reserve Corps had 120,000 volunteers and 800 units.

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