By Bruce Dammeier, Pierce County Executive.
So, I recently learned that while those of us in the U.S. say we are eager to get our vaccination “shot,” our friends across the Pond in Great Britain say they can’t wait to get a “jab.” Either way, I’m excited that we are getting more vaccines into arms!
Thanks to some terrific work by our Department of Emergency Management (DEM), the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, and their community partners, lots of County residents got their “jab” this week. We opened two mass vaccination events last Tuesday and Thursday and have another planned for Saturday in Gig Harbor.
These events take a huge amount of organization and coordination. Each one includes a multi-step process to confirm eligibility, accept appointments, identify a host site, arrange for security and traffic control, as well as managing the trained personnel to administer the “jab.”
Our DEM team has hosted many mobile testing sites throughout the County over the last few months – and they became a “well-oiled machine.” But the vaccination events are a much more complex and complicated event.
We had as many as 10 lanes of vaccinations, which required over 100 volunteers and staff. Those wonderful people came from DEM, the Medical Reserve Corps, MultiCare, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, retired healthcare professionals, and numerous community groups who routinely help us out in an emergency. I even spoke with a nurse who spent her precious day off volunteering at our event in Lakewood last Tuesday.
Despite long lines, people were ecstatic and grateful to get their jab. The Tuesday event at Clover Park Technical College vaccinated 1,883 and the team had to stay late to get to everyone. We applied some “lessons learned” at Thursday’s event in the Blue Lot at the Washington State Fairgrounds and “jabbed” 2,000 people with the longest wait being 90 minutes – and included some music to set the tone! Tomorrow’s event at Chapel Hill in Gig Harbor will be a bit smaller because of site limitations.
As we get rolling and get access to more vaccines, we plan to do three mass events each week for a total of 6,000 vaccinations. Depending on the supply, we anticipate planning and hosting as many as 60 mass vaccination events over the next five months or so.
These events were somewhat emotional for all involved. One elderly man told me getting his vaccination felt like “a cloud is being lifted.” The staff and volunteers knew they were doing very important work to help our community get healthy. But even for those of us who are still waiting our turn to get “jabbed,” these mass events provide hope that we are going to get beyond this pandemic.
That is why getting our residents vaccinated is at the top of our three immediate goals for 2021. It is also key to achieving the other two: getting our young people back into their classrooms and helping those who have lost their jobs get back to work.
I’ll close with a different kind of “jab.” You may be familiar with “The Jen(n)s” – Jen Spane and Jenn Sergent in Parks – they are repeat Standing Ovation Award winners! They run a fantastic program for special needs youth and adults in the community. In addition to recreation and activities for special populations, they host a Facebook “talk show” called Jabber with Jen(n). I was a recent guest on their show and had a great time. I thought I’d share the fun with you.
As we close the first month of this new, more hopeful year, I remain grateful for the many people and programs that make Pierce County a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Thanks for reading,
First published on the Pierce County website.