The UC San Diego Health-Petco Park Super Station is a huge operation—and a source of hope for many San Diegans. While the super station has had to close on certain days due to vaccine shortages, there is still a need for local support and volunteers.
LJI Postdoctoral Associate Benjamin Meckiff, Ph.D., has already worked four shifts at the super station. He explains what his experience was like:
Q: What was your role as a volunteer?
Meckiff: I have volunteered both as a runner and an observer. Runners are tasked with maintaining the medical supply inventory used by the vaccinators and also help direct the cars entering and exiting the vaccine line. As an observer, your main role is to check in with patients following vaccination to make sure they don’t display any symptoms. Observers also communicate with patients to help them make appointments for their second dose and sign up for the after vaccination health checker set up by the CDC, V-safe .
How did your shift work?
Shifts can range from four to 14 hours and upon arrival you get assigned a lane for cars (or directed to help out at the walk-up station). Each lane can accommodate 20–30 cars at a time with around 15 volunteers (doctors and nurses as well as non-clinical help) to make sure vaccination happens as swiftly and safely as possible.
Can you describe the scene?
The mood at the site is generally very positive. Clinical staff and non-medical volunteers are happy to be helping out, and patients are grateful to be receiving a dose of a vaccine that will help them get back to “normal” life. Some patients end up waiting over five hours for their vaccination, yet they have still shown their appreciation by offering chocolates and flowers to the volunteers.
Did any moments stand out to you?
After a few hours of working together, there is a tremendous sense of community that builds between the volunteers, and you often have nice conversations with the patients during their observation period. Seeing patients bring along their dogs and talking with people from near my hometown have been highlights of the shifts.
This is an especially historic vaccination effort. How did it feel to be part of it?
While this has been an historic vaccination effort, it is still very much in its infancy. At this time only certain individuals living in San Diego County have been eligible for vaccination and a disparity in uptake across geographic, ethnic and age demographics is already very clear. As an institute working with samples from patients with COVID-19, we are extremely fortunate to have been deemed eligible for vaccination. However, immunization should not be considered an individual exercise but rather a community and public health effort that needs to be maintained until all individuals have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. We can help by volunteering at vaccination sites, but we can also encourage individuals to get the vaccine when they become eligible. We should not dismiss those who are hesitant to make an appointment due to safety concerns. We should listen and address them so they feel informed about their decision.