By JOHN HOWELL Remember the bell on the neighborhood ice cream truck? It was a call that was hard to resist. Brooke Lawrence, executive officer of the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps, thinks for the state to achieve a 70 percent COVID vaccination
Remember the bell on the neighborhood ice cream truck? It was a call that was hard to resist.
Brooke Lawrence, executive officer of the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps, thinks for the state to achieve a 70 percent COVID vaccination rate, like the ice cream truck it will need to reach out to the neighborhoods.
On Saturday, the medical corps that has been working with the Rhode Island Department of Health conducted the state’s first drive-thru vaccination clinic in partnership with the Rhode Island Parent Information Network. The clinic was conducted in the RIPIN parking lot off Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. Sixty people, some of whom were driven by family members and would have had difficulty getting out of a car, had made appointments. The drive-thru clinic was also open without appointment to anyone who might have learned of the event through news coverage and social media.
Lawrence said a second drive-thru clinic is planned for July 10 at the Wickford Train Station.
On Saturday, those attending had the choice of the Moderna vaccination, in which case they could get their second vaccination on July 10, or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Lawrence and the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps are no strangers to getting people vaccinated. Lawrence points with pride to the campaign to vaccinate children during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The school-by-school program is considered one of the most comprehensive in the country.
But schools are contained entities and vaccinating a student population would appear to be far easier than the general populace. Furthermore, with 64.2 percent of Rhode Island’s population – a total of 680,870 people – having been partially vaccinated according to the DOH, along with the lifting of COVID restrictions, the sense of urgency diminishes each day as the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline.
“It’s about access, making it really convenient,” says Lawrence. He suggests getting a vaccination should be available while running errands and street-by-street or as he puts it, “the ice cream truck model.”
“That’s how we get across the finish line,” he said.
It’s a battle Lawrence has been documenting.
He pulls out his cell phone and notes its 464 days since the shutdown on March 12, 2020. Since then, the Rhode Island Medical Reserve Corps has logged 170,000 hours and a total of 2,000 volunteers have donated at least one hour. Lawrence said the corps staffs between three and six clinics a day.
RIMRC was founded in 2003 as a state emergency response organization sponsored by the RI Disaster Medical Assistance Team. The nonprofit recruits and trains medical health professionals and community volunteers to prepare for and respond to public health emergency disasters throughout the state, according to corps’ website.
At Saturday’s drive-thru, about 25 volunteers between those from RIPIN and the corps ran the event. As vehicles entered the parking lot they were informed what to expect before proceeding to a second stop where vehicle occupants were asked how many were looking to be vaccinated. Following vaccination at another stop, drivers were shown to an area where they were told to wait in the event of any adverse reactions.
“They have been with us since day one,” Annmarie Beardsworth, spokeswoman for the DOH, said Tuesday of the corps. She said the department’s focus of late has been to bring vaccinations into the community through “pop-up” clinics.
“We’re not so focused on volume, but on a positive experience,” she said.
“The Rhode Island Department of Health is grateful and appreciative of the countless number of volunteers – including those from Rhode Island’s Medical Reserve Corps – for the critical role they have in the State’s COVID-19 response,” RIDOH COVID-19 Executive Director Tom McCarthy said in a statement.
“This response has truly required all hands on deck, and the hard work and dedication of individual volunteers and the agencies they represent have helped keep Rhode Islanders safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Rhode Island is able to enjoy this summer because of everything we have done in the past year. On behalf of RIDOH, I would like to express our deepest gratitude and extend a heartfelt thank you to all volunteers who supported the State’s response.”