Volunteers are an asset, but qualified training is key
Re “Build a vaccination corps to reopen America” by Michael F. Collins and Marty T. Meehan (Opinion, Jan. 2). I am a recently retired board-certified advanced practice nurse specializing in public health. I was the director of the Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps and the team commander for the National Nurse Response Team for the East Coast.
We have active Medical Reserve Corps units throughout the United States and its territories. As of October 2020, there were 185,000 volunteers in roughly 800 community-based units. The mission of the Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps has been to pre-credential and pretrain medical and nonmedical volunteers to assist in public health and emergency response and to build community resilience.
In Massachusetts, we also have MA Responds. This group was designed to recruit medical and nonmedical volunteers to help in a public health emergency. This group also pretrains and pre-credentials volunteers for medical challenges in the state.
Several years ago, our National Nurse Response Team was deactivated by the federal agency overseeing the program. We were a specialized team, part of our national disaster response service. This was our role.
As I read the op-ed, I thought: Why were we, as a nation, so shortsighted as to not recognize the risk of a pandemic? We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We need to empower and fund groups such as the ones I’ve cited. Volunteers are a great asset. But without pre-credentialing and pretraining, they put themselves and others at risk.
Jean M. Roma
Worcester group’s efforts with flu yield useful data
In 2007, the Worcester District Medical Society addressed the threat of a pandemic using flu immunization as a platform for teaching medical students injection techniques and doing emergency exercises. We partnered with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the UMass school of nursing, Emergency Medical Services, the Worcester and Massachusetts public health departments, state legislators, and Walmart to immunize 2,000 people in one day at two sites.
Our biggest problems were assuring a vaccine supply and immunization registration. Following that day, we initiated work on a statewide vaccine registry, which is now available. Our continued yearly flu immunization (Community Immunity) would be a firm foundation to build the team that Collins, chancellor of the UMass Medical School, and Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts, envisioned. We would gladly brief any legislators interested in moving forward.
Dr. Bruce Karlin
Worcester District Medical Society
Draw on expertise of retired dentists, other health care professionals
In the spirit of John F. Kennedy’s lofty words inspiring Americans to ask not what their country can do for them but what they can do for their country, I propose challenging retired dentists to step up and help ameliorate the slow pace of administering vaccines against COVID-19. As a retired periodontist, I’m part of that cohort of dental school alumni who have already given thousands of injections as part and parcel of their careers. We can be mobilized to ask, “Can you roll up your sleeve?” rather than “Can you open wide, please?”
Dr. Michael F. Collins and Marty T. Meehan have proposed creating a national COVID-19 Vaccination Corps composed mostly of college students to relieve our exhausted health care workers from the mission of vaccinating the population. Currently working medical professionals are already at the breaking point caring for the critically ill, and their hospitals are at or beyond capacity.
I envision a retiree vaccination corps made up of health professionals. Dental schools could reach out to their graduates who are retirees who have the medical background and experience. This model applies just as well for retirees in other health care fields. Under schools’ administration and supervision, the group could be operational in short order.
JFK would have been proud to know that 60 years after his 1961 inaugural charge, the words still resonated at a time of need. This would come just days away from the anticipated inspirational message of a new inaugural address.