About 1,300 people who came to EagleBank Arena Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6, received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine through a clinic scheduled by Fairfax County Health Department and run by George Mason University. They came for the vaccines and left with something more.
“It feels so good to be able to provide hope,” said Julie Zobel, Mason’s associate vice president for Safety, Emergency and Enterprise Risk Management. “You can see that there’s hope in the patients that come through, there’s hope in the medical and nonmedical staff and volunteers delivering the vaccines. This is a very powerful, uplifting environment, and I think we could all use a little bit of that right now.”
The Fairfax County Health Department was responsible for providing the vaccines, appointment lists and supplies such as needles. Mason is a primary partner of the health department and is one of two partners that are operating somewhat independently with regard to operations and staffing, Zobel said. More than 50 volunteers from Mason’s Department of Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Risk Management, the College of Health and Human Services and elsewhere throughout the Mason community helped with traffic control, pedestrian traffic control, the vaccinations of patients and an ongoing vaccine management count.
The two-day clinic was aimed at local residents 65 and older, but many who arrived were at least 75 years of age. The roughly 1,300 people vaccinated represented a significant increase from the 773 at the two-day clinic held in The Hub Ballroom the weekend before, as increased efficiency allowed for more shots to get into more arms.
“The quicker we do this, the safer everybody becomes,” said volunteer Luke McBride, an operations and events specialist in Mason’s Research and Innovation Initiatives who doubles as an ambulance driver with a Prince William County fire department in his free time. “I’ve seen firsthand what the virus has done. So, to me, this is security. Security that they won’t get sick and that they won’t get their loved ones sick.”
Mason freshman and community health major Bethany Ditzler said nothing prepared her for the moving moments that took place at the clinic on Saturday.
“It’s been amazing,” said Ditzler of Staunton, Virginia, who was volunteering at the clinic. “I’ve seen couples hugging and crying. It just warms my heart.”
In addition to the clinics at the Fairfax Campus, Mason is administering the COVID 19 vaccine in Prince William County through its Mason and Partners Clinic in Manassas Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where approximately 500 people are getting the shot each week.
Zobel said that she expects Mason to continue hosting two days of vaccination clinics per week in Fairfax for months to come, so quickly assembling a reliable pool of volunteers from the campus community will be imperative.
It’ll be worth it, Zobel added, as Mason further affirms its role as a positive partner in the community.
“This is very positive and uplifting,” Zobel said. “It’s an incredible feeling knowing you’re part of the solution.”