Celebrating our corps of vaccine site volunteers

As if giving the go-ahead nod to April’s Volunteer Month, Sharp has made the long-awaited announcement that our volunteer programs are resuming across the System. Our much-missed volunteers are able to resume helping patients bedside in non-COVID areas, and with some other restrictions still in place, but the good news is they’re on their way back.

In addition to this welcome news, this April gives us the chance to celebrate volunteers of another sort, and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for what we’ve been able to accomplish.

The Sharp team members, as well as community volunteers, who have stepped up to the plate to staff our vaccination sites have allowed us to provide an incredible benefit to our community. At last count, we’ve administered nearly 390,000* vaccine doses, and have fully vaccinated more than 155,000 individuals. All told, some 100,000 volunteer hours have been logged in to date, produced by roughly 8,000 unique volunteers, including non-clinical volunteers and vaccinators.

Our Sharp Grossmont teammates, as well as team members throughout the system, have filled shift after shift as site, volunteer, registration, line and vaccination leads, as well as staffing the lines, registration tables and vaccination stations, at our Grossmont site and other locations as well.

We are beyond grateful for our team members who, day in and day out, show up to staff these vaccination superstations. They cheerfully greet the public, register them, answer their questions, troubleshoot their issues and ultimately get these invaluable shots into their arms. All this, while still balancing their own day jobs, is a feat for which we cannot say ‘thanks’ enough times over.

Some staff have said it gives them a peek into roles they would otherwise not serve in, and that they’ll always be proud of the difference they made as the tables turned and we got the upper hand against COVID-19 by vaccinating our communities. Others shared fond memories of those first happy seniors that got vaccinated, and the relief on the faces of people with pre-existing conditions when they stepped up to the table to check in for their shot.

Lance Safarta, a College Volunteer at SGH for nearly four years, began donating his time to help staff the Grossmont Center vaccination site while he was not able to help out at the hospital. A UCSD student readying for med school, Lance says working at the site is a bit like what he expects being a physician will someday be.

“I meet hundreds of people from all backgrounds, and get to make small talk with them while they’re waiting in line,” says Lance. “I get a sense of the diversity of people in our community, with the kind of social interactions that will carry on with me throughout my medical career.”

He says the personal interactions are memorable. “I once ran into a math professor of mine that I hadn’t seen in 3 years, and we were able to catch up. He was so happy to be getting the vaccine.”

Lance says he’s just glad to be part of the process. “I feel honored to take part in making people feel safe, and of being part of an organization that is protecting the people of my community from the virus.”

So once more, we thank our volunteers like Lance, who can now happily return to campus along with the rest of our trusted volunteer corps, as well as our SGH and Sharp system team members, and everyone in between, for their tireless efforts to serve the public at our multiple vaccination sites. It’s an understatement to say we could not do it without you.

*Update: As of April 21, more than 500,000 vaccines have been administered.