The decision was easy for Mary Shepard.
Shepard, a Hazel Dell resident, retired from a nearly 40-year career in medicine in 2015. But the COVID-19 pandemic pulled her back.
Shepard is now volunteering as part of a Kaiser Permanente push to vaccinate homebound folks in Washington and Oregon.
Shepard said it would be hard to watch but not help as America’s vaccination push kicks into gear.
That’s what drove her to volunteer as a vaccinator in March.
She has worked local standing vaccine clinics and also inoculated homebound folks in Southwest Washington.
“If they thought that I could help, then I wanted to help,” said Shepard, who also volunteered at COVID-19 testing sites last year.
Shepard said it has been particularly important to find ways to reach people who can’t visit vaccination locations because of medical conditions, transportation problems or for other reasons.
Often times, homebound people can be more at-risk for serious complications from COVID-19 because of a medical condition or their age.
“They feel kind of on the periphery of health care all the time,” Shepard said.
Those folks generally have little in-person contact, but they often have a caretaker who sees and interacts with them frequently. Shepard can vaccinate those caregivers on visits.
Before Shepard sets off for vaccinating, Kaiser contacts each homebound member in advance for consent, pre-screening and the appointment, laying out Shepard’s schedule to create the most efficient travel plan.
“It’s a huge team effort,” Shepard said. “It’s so meaningful to people that they can have the vaccine delivered.”
While Shepard monitors people for adverse reactions for 15 to 30 minutes after the injection, she’ll generally chat with whomever she just inoculated.
Shepard said the vaccine is a huge relief for most folks and signals a return to something more normal than the last year.
Often times, people haven’t seen their family since the beginning of the pandemic. Getting to see grandkids again is an especially exciting prospect for people.
“It’s a really cheery job. People are incredibly grateful about getting a vaccine,” Shepard said. “The vaccine is the most positive thing to come during the pandemic.”