To the editor:
This winter, a small army of Alexandrians roll out of bed in the wee hours, don burgundy Medical Reserve Corps shirts and badges, pack masks, shields, water and snacks and head through quiet neighborhoods to vaccination pods, call centers, supply inventories and community clinics. Volunteers from Old Town, Del Ray, North Ridge, Rosemont, Seminary Ridge and West Alexandria, representing medical and non-medical professions, combine diverse skill sets to combat the greatest public health crisis of our generation.
The Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps is organized within the Alexandria Health Department under Public Health Emergency Management. The AHD mission, “to protect and promote health and well-being in our communities” is evidenced daily in our city.
MRC volunteers are the foot soldiers of this mission, working alongside AHD staff and other City of Alexandria employees who have volunteered for work details. Nearly 400 volunteers have been trained, tasked and deployed during the course of the pandemic.
At call centers, six to eight volunteers answer covid-related calls from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Schedulers work long hours to make sure vulnerable Alexandrians receive vaccinations at participating pharmacy locations. Workers coordinate supply centers, maintain inventory and distribute supplies for vaccine PODs and clinics.
Three times weekly at vaccination sites, volunteers perform complex and vital tasks – flow, logistics, biohazard, registration, tech, clinical and safety – in an impressively coordinated public health effort to protect Alexandria residents.
You will encounter us when you arrive for your vaccine. Flow volunteers in yellow vests will direct you where to go, remind you to please remain six feet apart and ask familiar screening questions. They share your excitement as you take this significant step to protect yourself and your fellow citizens.
Next, you’ll meet registration volunteers in blue vests who will ensure that the correct person is vaccinated and, in a month, vaccinated again. You will then be directed to a table where friendly clinicians in PPE will again ask screening questions. At last, you will be vaccinated.
We’ll ask you to hang around for 15 minutes in the rare event of an adverse reaction. Meanwhile, fastidious safety crews in green vests will disinfect shared spaces, preparing the way for the next neighbor. We won’t see you again until you are back in a month for your second dose. That is, unless we see you around the neighborhood.
I discovered the Alexandria MRC in spring 2020 but did not become active until the fall when pandemic, politics and a plummeting economy propelled me to try and do something. I quickly found like-minded neighbors, many who have been staffing call centers, clinics and testing sites since March 2020.
These stalwart volunteers soldier on today, contributing multiple shifts weekly, now supervisors in a chain of command that is rewarded with a meal at the end of a 10-hour shift and the heartening knowledge that 1,000 more neighbors received vaccinations that day.
I am proud to be among these hardworking, community-minded Alexandrians and feel fortunate to be living in a city where limited supply of vaccine is reliably and intentionally distributed to those who need it first. To date, more than 20,000 vaccine doses have been given to city residents, teachers, first responders and front-line healthcare providers working in Alexandria.
A solid start, executed by your neighbors, a small army of Alexandrians.
-Traci Miller, Alexandria