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Volunteers a huge part of vaccine effort



BELLA VISTA, Ark. — As the state’s covid-19 vaccine roll-out continues, volunteers are proving essential in distributing doses in Bella Vista.

Karen Bond, a pharmacist with Cornerstone Pharmacy, said the pharmacy’s clinics have given 6,400 vaccine doses as of last week doing two or three six-hour clinic days each week, typically providing 200 to 220 doses each day.

Anyone interested in scheduling an appointment for a vaccine can check Cornerstone Pharmacy’s Facebook page or go through the Arkansas Department of Health website. Additionally, she said, walk-in patients over 65 are accepted, but it’s essential that they provide their red white and blue Medicare card and identification.

If anyone can’t make an appointment, it’s important to call the pharmacy and let staff know, she said.

The vaccine clinics have a lot of volunteers, mostly Bella Vista residents, she said, and many of them are volunteering at other clinics when they aren’t doing their one or two days here.

“I try not to abuse them too much,” she said.

Many volunteers are nurses who administer vaccines, she said, but there are still jobs — such as paperwork and cleaning — for people who are not qualified to administer the vaccine.

Bond said she appreciated Mercy Bella Vista allowing the pharmacy to use a conference room for its vaccinations, and when that room isn’t available the volunteers and staff can typically find a space at Riordan Hall.

Bella Vista resident Ellen Creakbaum, a nurse volunteering with these clinics, said she’s glad to help the community like this.

“It’s been such a good experience overall,” she said.

Creakbaum said she was eager to join up with Cornerstone because it has provided significant community service over the years.

Jim Graham, the pharmacy’s owner, said he’s eager to provide this service to the community.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime, hopefully, experience for any healthcare provider,” he said.

Graham said he was among the first to sign up and, while there was initially some concern about vaccine availability, the situation is improving.

Further, he said, this effort would be impossible without volunteers.

While he’s had to hire two people, eighteen nurses have volunteered to help provide these clinics, he said.

The vaccine is paid for by the federal government and the pharmacy is only able to recoup some costs by billing insurance providers and the government, he said, meaning he hopes to break even on providing these doses to the public.

Further, he said, it’s unfortunate that the vaccine and illness have been heavily politicized. Everyone should try to get vaccinated, he said, and there’s no logical reason for resistance to it.

“The vaccine, by all standards, has been highly tested,” he said.

It also provides a certain level of freedom for people who have spent the past year cooped up, he said.

While it is true that some patients may get covid-19 and display no symptoms and many people will survive with symptoms, the disease is still highly contagious and could cause long term health complications, possibly even among asymptomatic patients, he explained.

“I’ve lost customers to it, I’ve got elderly people that I would never expose,” Graham said.

These clinics have generally gone smoothly, he said, and he appreciates that patients have been patient and kind.

One patient, Judith Nelson, said she received both doses at Cornerstone’s vaccine clinics and will be fully immunized soon.

Nelson said it was a wonderful experience and she felt relieved after the injections. Further, she said, she was very impressed with the volunteers and staff who ran the clinic.

As she becomes immunized, Nelson said she’s most looking forward to seeing her son, who will be coming up from Texas to visit in May.

“I haven’t seen family in a long, long time,” she said.