For Alicia Harris, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 brought on a sense of relief and freedom.
Harris has a preexisting condition that put her at high risk, so she stayed home and did her best to stay safe until it was her turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Once she was fully protected, she immediately wanted to return the favor.
“I wanted to do that for people in my community — give them the sense of things getting better and feeling safer,” says Harris, who is a registered nurse working as a case management coordinator with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX).
She volunteered at several community vaccination events around the Dallas metro area.
“I was raring to go and get shots in arms,” she says. “It’s going to benefit us as a society to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
At Harris’s side during the two vaccination events in April were 13 of her clinician coworkers. They were all taking advantage of a BCBSTX program encouraging them to volunteer during the COVID-19 vaccination push. Through the program, BCBSTX pays each clinician for up to 80 hours spent volunteering to give COVID-19 vaccines.
“This gave the me opportunity to feel like I’m contributing my education to the cause,” says Wendi McCormick, a licensed vocational nurse working as a medical reviewer at BCBSTX. “It gave me the chance to use my nursing skills again.”
The clinician volunteer program is just one example of what BCBSTX is doing to support the state during the pandemic. Other efforts include giving $2 million to local organizations through the Community Collaborative Grant Fund and giving an additional $550,000 in grants to more than 80 community partners and nonprofits addressing needs worsened by the public health crisis.
Bringing vaccines to the people
McCormick and Harris were volunteering at events held by the Caring Foundation of Texas, sponsored by BCBSTX, and Sanitas Medical Centers, the foundation’s Dallas medical provider.
The foundation has held 72 Care Van Texas COVID-19 vaccine clinics as of May 19, distributing more than 8,000 shots in underserved areas around Dallas and Corpus Christi.
“The COVID vaccines were not reaching underserved areas. Because the Care Van program is mobile, they take the services to the communities,” says Sheena Payne, executive director of the Caring Foundation of Texas.
And Payne says the mass vaccination clinics wouldn’t be possible without volunteers like Harris and McCormick, since the Sanitas providers need additional clinician support for large-scale immunization events.
Roughly 13.6 million Texans have been fully vaccinated as of June 21.
Harris says she was thrilled to play a small roll in getting Texans protected against the virus. “It’s important work. I’m trying to get the message out there.”