Speeding up the process: Vaccine volunteers serving communities

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SPANISH FORK, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah continues to hold the top spot among states for the highest rate of volunteer work in the nation. Throughout the pandemic, thousands of Utahns have shown their support for one another by helping their community get vaccinated.

Joe Haynie has volunteered his time at two of three Utah County mass vaccination sites as a medical reserve volunteer.

Since his childhood, service has been a family tradition.

“My mother was one time asked about what family traditions we have. She said, ‘I guess service is our family tradition.’ We do look for opportunities to serve,” Haynie said. “I have to say, it really was because of my wife – who is very compassionate, very willing to help.”

At the Spanish Fork mass vaccination site Monday, 61 shots were given every 10 minutes, according to a Utah Department of Health spokesperson. At the end of the day, totaling 2,200 shots in arms.

“It’s an opportunity to see people of all socioeconomic backgrounds kinda coming together for a miracle,” Haynie said. “It’s something we prayed for long and hard and the vaccine’s here. And we have the opportunity to help people get it.”

The call for help came in mid-February when state leaders asked for 1,000 vaccine volunteers. In Utah County alone, they’ve had more than 2,000 sign up to help.

“It speaks volumes about our community and the desire that people have to see the progress here and to get through this coronavirus pandemic and come back out,” Haynie said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is considered a national emergency, calling the Utah National Guard to help in relief efforts.

“I think this is the very first mission where we actually can interact with people in a positive way, as soldiers to help. There’s not a lot of missions the National Guard does that does that,” said Capt. Helaman Hurtado.

He said this mission proves beneficial for communities.

“A lot of smiling faces, a lot of people who just want to get back to normal and be able to visit their family again,” Hurtado said.

The UNG are serving throughout the state, but in Spanish Fork, 28 guardsmen are onsite, Hurtado said, with about 40 more serving at sites in American Fork and Provo.

“Our purpose as soldiers is to augment the counties,” he said. “In Spanish Fork, we have soldiers helping with registration, screening, and also giving out vaccines. And most of our soldiers are just helping people go through the lines.”

As of Monday, the Utah Department of Health reports 24% of Utah’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vaccine appointments can be made the week before on the Utah County Health Department website.

Before appointments open, the community can opt-in to receive a text notification by texting 888-777.

For help or questions about vaccine appointments, call 801-851-4357.

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