Both Dr. Wendy Greenberg and registered nurse Debbie Wexler are among the mighty and dedicated who “mask up” to donate their skills and time to make a contribution to the metro Atlanta mass COVID-19 vaccination effort.
“We’ve been vaccinating folks from ages 16 to 95,” Greenberg said. “Judaism instilled in me to help make the world a better place, and I signed up because I felt deeply about helping others.”
Wexler similarly emoted, “If you have a skill, tikkun olam,” the concept of repairing the world, “guides us to act on it. Overall, it has been a very smooth process.”
Greenberg has been volunteering weekly near North Point Mall (a former Fulton County office building) and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “I wanted to help vaccinate since that is our fastest route to get the community back to normalcy.” She estimated that she spends a few minutes with each patient and does about 12 shots an hour in 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. shifts, plus coming an hour early at 8:30 a.m. to get prepared. Overall, she calculated that 1,200 vaccinations a day are done at the stadium. The process has evolved and become smoother along the way, she said.
“Instead of paperwork, we now have CORE [Community Organized Relief Effort] volunteers help with computer tablet intake, which I can then quickly review. Sometimes I have to coach those who are apprehensive, to breathe, while discussing the potential side effects and assuaging nerves. Most patients just offer praise and gratitude that they got an appointment in the first place. Some are afraid of the needle itself versus a potential problem with the vaccine side effects. I have never seen a bad reaction on site that an EMT had to deal with.” Those vaccinated are asked to remain for 15 minutes before exiting.
Another example of refining the process is changing from Moderna to Pfizer. Greenberg explained that a vial of the former provided 10 doses compared to half that for the latter. Thus, when there are lulls in the line, there is less waste. Greenberg has also volunteered with Camp Twin Lakes and Second Helpings. She is currently the collaborative pediatrician at Nuestros Ninos. COVID-wise she also volunteered as a tester.
Wexler entered the vaccine volunteer program through the Medical Reserve Core/ Georgia Department of Public Health to volunteer at Mercedes- Benz Stadium. She is most motivated by helping “a wide swath of humanity.” She explained, “I have inoculated nursing mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, children bringing elderly parents, all walks of life. We even have language options for non-English speakers. Most leave elated by the experience.”
She noted that volunteers are treated well with lunch and free parking, and others helping with paperwork and the traffic flow. Wexler is inspired by the cordial and capable cadre of workers. “Here we are soldiers, firefighters, paid nurses and greeters, along with we volunteers working as a team. One day it was super windy, everyone still came and proceeded smoothly.”
There is a modesty booth roped off for those who are heavily garbed for cultural reasons or forgot to wear something that allows access to the upper arm. Wexler makes sure that patients know when to come back for second doses, and to save and photograph their “proof “card.
Also, in terms of maximum dosage efficiency, she noted that toward the end of the day, volunteers have to be parsimonious and conscious of not wasting open doses vis-a-vis the number of patients left to vaccinate. She is content that no one got turned away.
Wexler concludes, “The nicest feedback I get is when a patient says ‘Are you done? I didn’t even notice that anything happened!’”
Registered nurse Debbie Wexler is pleased to treat such a “wide swath of humanity” and values the dedication and professionalism of the overall team effort. Dr. Wendy Harris Greenberg feels that the vaccine is one of the best ways to return to normalcy.