Healthcare workers across the United States are busy fighting COVID-19 in overcrowded hospitals. At the same time, there is a great need for medical workers to give millions of newly arrived vaccine doses.
To take some of the pressure off the healthcare workers, some U.S. states are asking medical and nursing students, in some cases even firefighters, to help give the shots.
So far, at least seven state health departments are looking for volunteers to help out at vaccination centers. Departments are cooperating with local universities or nursing schools. Some are offering incentives, such as lowering students' costs to study and giving hands-on training to first responders.
COVID-19 has left more than 333,000 Americans dead and caused great economic harm. But the new vaccines are the best hope many have to see things turn around.
This month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first two COVID-19 vaccines, one from drug-makers Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, the other from Moderna.
As of December 23, almost 10 million doses had been shipped across the country. But only about 1 million were used because of limited support at hospitals and the special requirements for preparing the shots. The slow start will make it difficult for the federal government to reach its goal of vaccinating nearly 20 million people before the end of 2020.
The current vaccination programs are centering mainly on frontline healthcare workers. But beginning in January or February, the vaccination drive is expected to expand to tens of millions of essential industry workers.
From New York to Tennessee, states are hoping that support from medical and nursing students will let medical workers turn all their efforts to the record numbers of new COVID-19 patients.
Being able to use volunteers means the healthcare workers “can continue to perform their normal duties, which is crucial as our hospitalization rate has increased,” a spokeswoman for Indiana University’s School of Medicine told Reuters news agency.
As the first vaccines arrived, Indiana health officials called on the state university because its campuses are spread over a large area. More than 630 of Indiana University’s medical and nursing students have signed up as volunteers and received 90 minutes of online and hands-on training.
Fourth-year medical student Nicholas Clough recently began giving COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers. He has lost several family members during the pandemic. “It finally felt like it was a real, tangible strike back against COVID,” Clough told Reuters.
In California, first responders have been trained to give the vaccine, first to their co-workers.
“They have already received online training and will have another one-hour live training session,” said Peter Sanders, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department. The department was expecting doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Some states are not actively looking for volunteers, until there are more vaccines ready for the public.
So far, only Massachusetts and New York have changed their laws for who can give shots.
On December 13, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo acted to permit students from medically related fields to give the flu and COVID-19 shots, with supervision.
“We encourage all medical and nursing students to register now so they will be ready when their assistance is needed,” a health department spokeswoman said.
I'm Armen Kassabian.
Reuters reporters Tina Bellon and Melissa Fares reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
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Words in This Story
incentive – n. something that encourages a person to do something or to work harder
first responder – n. someone trained to respond to an emergency.
dose – n. the amount of a medicine or drug that is taken at one time
crucial – adj. extremely important
essential – adj. extremely important and necessary
tangible – adj. easily seen or recognized
frontline – n. an area involving action and conflict
supervision – n. the action or process of watching and directing what someone does or how something is done
encourage –v. to make (someone) more determined, hopeful, or confident