As reported Dec. 20 (“County vaccine clinic to close Dec. 29 after administering 100,000 shots”), the final tally of 100,000 vaccinations administered on-site, in school and at mobile clinics would not have occurred without the community’s countless hours of effort and support for the COVID vaccination center in Sanford.

Mary Rich of Waterboro is vaccinated by Kennebunk Fire & Rescue paramedic David Garriepy on opening day of the York County vaccine clinic, in a former Marshall’s department store in Sanford, on March 2, 2021.  Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, File

I am writing with the deepest of appreciation on behalf of the York County Emergency Management Agency for the dozens of police officers, firefighters, EMS providers, teachers, municipal staff, government officials and medical, nursing and pharmacy students from the University of New England as well as community volunteers who offered their time, expertise and support over the past three years.

There’s an essential part of this clinic’s story we can’t overlook. We arrived there by accident.
The impetus for this clinic was the recognition by Sanford’s town manager that both Southern Maine Health Care and the state Center for Disease Control and Prevention were considering opening high-throughput vaccination clinics in the same shopping center. Working together to maximize individual talents and resources to “put shots in arms” resulted in leaders from multiple organizations that had never worked together to create a public health initiative with minimal strain on the local health care system.

Acknowledging that over 50% of these vaccinations were administered after the relationship with MaineHealth dissolved is a compliment to both organizations, as the initial support led to the York County Emergency Medical Agency being able to stand up the operation independently and proving itself as a reliable entity capable of facilitating conversations between health care entities in a coordinated and consistent manner.At the opening, I spoke of confidence in the vaccine’s efficacy in reducing the risk of hospitalization and death and an appreciation for the partnership with the CDC, SMHC and the local municipalities, all punctuated by a line borrowed from Bruce Springsteen – an assurance there would be “no retreat and no surrender” from what we needed to accomplish.

Today, the results are clear. COVID vaccinations prevented more than 18.5 million hospitalizations and 3.2 million deaths in the United States. What I have been reflecting on isn’t that Maine had the third-highest vaccination rate in the country – it’s the story of our contribution, specifically where those 100,000 vaccinations didn’t happen. Namely, that those shots weren’t given in a doctor’s office or pharmacy, allowing an already-strained health care system to offload this task to an efficient and reliable resource within the community.  Other rural communities were not afforded that relief. What was accomplished at the Marshall’s site was rewarding to me as an emergency department physician because we were given an opportunity to go upstream of a problem with an effective intervention, instead of learning how to accept the consequences we have less power to change. I know that those who served consistently found the positive feedback from grandparents, parents and children served by the clinic to be compelling and inspiring. The words of appreciation earned while being of service to another person are precious – I encourage any of us to hold on to them dearly.About 18 months into this, I realized the best answer to the question, “When will COVID be over?” also suits the question, “When will Tom Brady retire?” Time keeps proving that the only correct answer in both instances is: “We’ll see.” ESPN’s analysts can speculate all they want; however, the only thing that matters today is whether we will make a similar commitment to off-season training and preparation as the “GOAT” to leave as much of the final answer in our control as humanly possible.What overwhelms me the most about what was accomplished is an appreciation for the shared values that hold a community together in a crisis – service to others, gratitude and empathy.

Because of an alignment of values, a group came together, irrespective of degrees, titles, badges or prior work experience to create an invaluable resource for the community. The final product exceeded what any single entity could have accomplished independently. Thank you to the dozens of community partners whose individual efforts helped fulfill the clinic’s mission statement: “We are a part of the greatest public health mobilization of our generation.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.