ALBION — Can you type? Are you computer savvy? Do you have a loud voice? Can you stand for several hours? Are you a people person?
After months of helplessness when it comes to the coronavirus, Noble County health officials are offering a way for citizens to fight back in a tangible way as a volunteer when vaccines become available locally for mass distribution.
An exact date when general population vaccines will be available is not known, but Noble County Health Nurse Cheryl Brown said state health officials want counties to be ready by Jan. 1.
To make that date workable, volunteers will be needed, both of the medical and non-medical variety. Bunches of volunteers.
Along with the medical personnel administering the vaccines, lay workers will be needed for everything from crowd and traffic control to registration to supply runners to those with data entry skills.
“We want to have a toolbox of volunteers,” said Jessica Price, Noble County’s emergency preparedness specialist.
The county needs to build a database of such volunteers, so the sooner the database starts getting names, the better off the county will be.
Anyone interested in volunteering should call the Noble County Emergency Management Agency office at 636-2938.
There is no maximum age limit for volunteers, and people only need to be old enough to be responsible and able to follow directions, according to Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff.
With each person needing two sets of vaccines, and a county of some 40,000 residents, multiple locations and multiple dates will be needed.
“This could go on for months,” Noble County Emergency Management Agency Director Mick Newton said. “We’re going to need a lot of volunteers.”
“The larger the tool box of volunteers we have, the better chance we have of being fully staffed,” Gaff said. “Individuals are going to have different talents.”
Training will be provided for each job, according to Price.
Newton said state officials have changed the way the vaccine will be distributed to the general public. Initially, Newton and Noble County health officials had planned on making the vaccines available by zip codes and using color-coded registration forms for the two different vaccine manufacturers.
Now, the state wants everyone to register online with a state database. The state is also mandating that the process be paperless, meaning an increased need for people with computer/data entry skills.
Vaccinations of area medical staff is scheduled to begin today at the Steuben County Event Center, in Angola (See additional story).
The distribution model or the vaccine involves a total of 13 individuals, according to Gaff:
• two door screeners;
• one runner;
• four registration personnel;
• one observer;
• one site manager; and
• four vaccinators.
Only the vaccinators will require medical expertise, Gaff said.
If that process goes smoothly, Noble County may adopt a similar procedure.
“We’ll see how their model is working,” Gaff said.
Noble County has already secured some specialized help from the University of Saint Francis.
“They are going to be offering up some nursing students who are seniors,” Price said.
Among other duties, the student nurses may serve as observers for those people who have just received the vaccines. Those recently vaccinated will be under observation for 15 minutes to check for any reaction.
Saint Francis has tentatively committed up to eight students for two days a week to the effort, but that will be dependent on when those dates happen to fall.
Gaff said while volunteers are critical, the success of Noble County’s efforts also will be heavily dependent upon the work done by Newton, Brown and Price.