Locals Answer the Call to Volunteer at Vaccination Sites

EllmansMark and Anne Ellman, ready to help at the Westchester County CenterWhile some of us have been focused on how and where we’ll get a vaccine, some of our neighbors have been working to administer thousands of vaccines at the Westchester County Center. Anne and Mark Ellman saw the call for volunteers to man the effort in January and quickly stepped up, though they were not immune to the mighty virus. This week, Scarsdale resident, Dara Gruenberg joined the effort as well.

Here is what they shared:

Anne and Mark Ellman

(Q) How did you get involved?

(A) In the January 7, 2021 edition of Scarsdale10583 we saw an article that said that Westchester Medical Center (WMC) was looking for volunteers for the County Center location. We provided information on-line that allowed WMC to do a background check. Several days later we were accepted into the program. Due to the substantial need for volunteers, they have asked volunteers to make a long-term commitment. There is no guarantee that volunteers will get vaccinated.

The announcement said, “Volunteers are needed to assist with operations and activities at vaccination sites, such as registration and check-in, data entry, greeting and routing participants, traffic flow, and other administrative tasks. Volunteers with specific clinical credentials to administer the vaccine are also needed. Volunteers must be 18 years of age in good health and proficient in English, with bi-lingual skills also being important. Those working at the vaccination site will be provided with training, PPE and will be able to receive the vaccine, if they wish.

Site locations will be announced in the coming days and will operate 7 days a week. Multiple shifts are available. Volunteers are asked to commit to three shifts a week during a 30-day commitment.
To register to be a part of this historic vaccine program, please click here.

(Q) Did you already have immunity? Were you concerned about exposure?

(A) Neither of us have had Covid and as far as we know, we did not have immunity.
Yes, We were very concerned about exposure and continue to be, but feel we are minimizing that risk.

(Q) What training did you have - what did you learn?

(A) The training is on the job. It is not complicated and is handled on the day of your first volunteer session. We have learned many things. Clearly, many of the people, particularly the elderly, have not been in a public space for many, many months. There is a lot of anxiety. They need to have warm eyes peering above the mask and a smile behind the mask to make them feel comfortable in such a large space with so many people. And yes, they can tell we are smiling behind the masks!

The whole experience can be overwhelming for them. That said, the County Center operation is so well run, with many, many dedicated people. Almost without exception, people leave marveling at the massive, well run operation. Yes, there have been a few days that had long waits. But considering that they are asked to handle as much as an extra 1,000 plus people in a day due to weather related cancellations, many of whom come well before their assigned time in order to beat the snow predicted later that day, the performance has been amazingly efficient. I know one of the last days I worked they said they averaged 299 people an hour for the day.

(Q) What precautions do you take when you go to the center?

(A) We double mask with one being an N95 and we wear clear goggles. We try to be very conscience of our distance to people.

(Q) What is your role?

(A) Every day is different. Welcoming and reassuring guests once they check in and enter the queue, Keeping the queue moving forward, Answering basic questions about the process, Directing newly vaccinated guests to the observation room, data entry, and other general tasks, as needed such as pushing wheel chairs or cleaning pens!

(Q) What has surprised you about the experience?

(A) It is a team effort to make the County Center vaccination program run. Of course you need the medical staff to give the actual vaccine but the National Guard, EMS, Parks Department, Law Enforcement and volunteers are all a part of what makes it work so well. The dedication of all of those involved is truly inspirational.

(Q) Have any of the people who were vaccinated had bad reactions immediately after receiving their shot?

(A) The County Center only gives the Pfizer vaccine. We have seen very few reactions to the vaccine. Generally it has been mostly anxiety and the EMS staff is always available and very present for anyone in need.

(Q) Why have you found it fulfilling?daraFrom Left to Right, Scarsdale residents Dara Gruenberg, Benazir Kannan and Marcy Krevitt.

(A) We have the time to give to the program and they need us and appreciate all that we do. The volunteers are a big part of the whole operation. It would be hard to do it without us. Most people leave and compliment us on what an amazing experience they had. The scope and scale of the national vaccination effort is historic and it is really fulfilling to help play a little part in it. Seeing so many elderly so relieved to be finally receiving their vaccines and anticipating getting their normal lives back is the best part of it.Dara Gruenberg

Dara Gruenberg, who just began this week gave her initial impressions of the operation. She said, “The County Center Vaccine Facility is a well oiled machine. The Westchester Medical Center Staff, site administrators, the National Guard, members of Westchester County Parks, EMTs and local law enforcement and volunteers all work together seamlessly to help people feel comfortable and move them through to get their vaccinations in an efficient and safe manner. Everyone is so cheerful, and people are constantly thanking one another. It is such an uplifting environment to be in especially after being so isolated this last year. It is invigorating and inspiring to be able to help in this way. I feel honored to be a part of this historic moment and full of hope that we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The best part of the job is interacting with people arriving to get their vaccines and chatting with them to put them at ease.”