SPANISH FORK, UT — A big undertaking happening in cities all over our country as healthcare officials try to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible.
Welcome to a retail experience unlike any you’ve ever had. Gone are the clothes and shoes and shelving, and here to stay are doctors, nurses, and even members of the military.
There are no more sales happening at the former Shopko retail store, just shots.
“It really was a surprise to us that we find ourselves in a former retail establish giving vaccinations, but here we are,” said Aislynn Tolman Hill with the Utah County Health Department.
When the Utah County Health Department learned they would be responsible for administering vaccines, they quickly got to work.
“We’ve been planning for this day for a long time, but when it’s here, the sheer reality of needing to do this amount is shocking,” Tolman Hill said.
For now, those 70 and older are in Utah County are eligible to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We’ve been waiting 10 months for this, and it’s a miracle that it’s here this soon,” David Willmore, said as he waited in line.
Willmore is one of about 1,500 to 2,000 people receiving the vaccine each day.
“I’m relieved,” Shauni Frank said. “It takes a little stress off of you to know that there is help on the way.”
Tyler Plewe is with the health department.
“I work in environmental health, so we work with restaurant inspections, septic system installation and we do pools,” Plewe explained.
These days, it’s less about the pools and more about the people for Plewe.
“We try to get people in and out in about 30 to 40 minutes,” Plewe said.
So far, the county health department has administered close to 30,000 doses.
“We are not wasting one dose,” Plewe said. “If we have four extra doses that we’ve drawn and our clinic is closed, we have a list, where we call people.”
Not one dose has gone to waste. The people with the health department say it’s the advanced planning and community support they must thank for their success.
“We’ve found that so many people want to help, and we are so excited to utilize them,” Plewe said.
One of those volunteers is retired Dr. David Lind. Dr. Lind is wearing his white coat once again after retiring about a year ago.
“I think it’s just a miracle that we are able to have this vaccine here,” Dr. Lind said.
Utah’s governor also activated the National Guard to help move things along.
“We see a lot of veterans here and it’s actually quite fun to interact with everyone,” Captain Helaman Hurtado with the Utah National Guard said.
The work is not done, not even close.
“We need to be ready,” Plewe said. “We can’t react. We need to be ahead of the curve.”
In the coming weeks, more and more people will be eligible to get vaccinated meaning more sites like the one in Utah could be popping up in your neighborhood.
“We’re happy to be here,” Tolman Hill said. “We’ve got a lot of space and we’re going strong every day.”