By Anne Gibson

The greater Vail community showed its strength as organizations and community volunteers rallied to the call to help local citizens be vaccinated against Covid19. The Pima County Health Department entered into an agreement with the United Community Health Center (UCHC), Vail, to provide the Moderna Vaccine. The vaccine was given to members of the greater Vail community by way of drive-through Pop Up Clinics held in the parking lot of Old Vail Middle School located at 13299 E. Colossal Cave Road.

Vail School District volunteer Della Ruiz registers a Vail community member to receive her first COVID 19 vaccination sponsored by United Community Health Center at the south end of Old Vail Middle School.

Wendy Kibby, a nurse on staff at UCHC, is charged with overseeing all of the Vail clinics provided by UCHC including the supervision of UCHC nurses like Adelina Lopez. Ms. Lopez gave this writer her first painless vaccination. UCHC, with its wide variety of services, is located at 13299 E. Colossal Cave Road at the south end of Old Vail Middle School.

To complete the structure UCHC partnered with two local organizations. The Vail School District coordinated the volunteer workers and the Rincon Valley Fire District provided manpower and stand-by ambulances in case one of the recipients had an allergic reaction. All vaccine recipients were required to spend 15 minutes after their injection to be monitored for any negative reactions. Including the February 5th clinic, there were no reported allergic reactions or transportation to a medical facility.

“One of the reasons that I’m proud to be a resident and Fire Chief of Vail is our community’s ability to come together and take care of each other. The vaccination clinics we have been able to put together with this local partnership, is an example of that. Rincon Valley Fire District is proud to serve its community in this way. Our mission is to prepare, prevent, and protect our community from harm. Vaccinating our community, especially those most vulnerable, clearly meets our mission of preventing and protecting against harm,” said Rincon Valley Fire Chief Jayme Kahle.

Heather Stough, Vail School District Community and Connections Director, worked with Debbie Andrus, a volunteer herself, to provide all the volunteers needed. As an example, Mrs. Andrus coordinated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have its missionaries assist as well as other faith-based organizations like the Living Branch Church who send volunteers. The volunteers assisted with everything from traffic control, checking people in to registering, and other areas of person contact. “It is so much more. The whole community stepped up. I am so proud of everyone,” said Mrs. Stough.

In between clinics community volunteers were at different locations. Mrs. Stough and Vail District Employee Peggy Benston Runyon were at Del Webb, an over fifty-community, helping qualifying residents from the 606 homes to register. Meanwhile nine community members joined Pam Kelty for four hours of phoning people to register them. These were people who had called the previous the week land left voice mail messages seeking vaccinations.

Cars line up to drive through the United Community Health Center, Vail, Pop-Up Clinic for drivers and passengers to get their first dose of Moderna Covid 19 vaccine. Volunteers where present to check people in and register them.

“Creating an opportunity in our community to deliver COVID vaccinations to our elderly neighbors is simply the right thing to do. Making his happen through our partnership with United Community Health Center, Rincon Valley Fire District, and our community volunteers reminds me why the Vail community is such a special place,” said Vail School District Superintendent John Carruth.

The first drive-through Pop-Up Clinic was held on January 8th classified for 1A health care workers and long-care residents. The second drive-through Pop-Up Clinic was held on January 21st classified for 1B people 75 years of age and older. The third drive-through Pop-Up Clinic was held on February 5th classified as 1B for people 70 years of age and older. It is reported that over 500 people received vaccine that day. As additional vaccine is received additional Pop-Up Clinics will be offered.

Adding to the coordination was the South East Regional Council (SERC) founded and led by Lucretia Free. The SERC formed a Covid19 group that has met and continues to meet weekly. The meetings gathered community leadership to brainstorm ideas on how to support the UCHC effort with additional action and to speak and distribute correct and accurate information with one voice through out the immediate communities. For further information about the South East Regional Council and the Covid19 Group contact Lucretia Free at 520-490-0654.

Thank you to every organization and person who helped to get so many people vaccinated.

Whittley “Anne” Gibson is a third generation Tucsonan and alumni of the University of Arizona. She has been an active community member in the greater Vail area since the late 1970s.

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Anne Gibson