National Guard calls for more medical student volunteers for COVID-19 inoculation
Adjutant general calls for more hands to help expand vaccination drive to other municipalities
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
In light of the long lines of hospital and medical office personnel waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Pedrín Zorrilla Coliseum in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico National Guard (PRNG) Adj. Gen. José Juan Reyes on Sunday urged more medical students to become volunteers in the vaccination process and “finally have more hands for another vaccination center at the Caguas Fine Arts Center on Wednesday.”
Reyes said the reason for seeking more volunteers is to begin thinning the number of people who are lining up at the San Juan vaccination center and “open the doors for everyone who lives in Caguas and other neighboring towns who are under Phase 1A” to receive their vaccine against the coronavirus.
According to a Puerto Rico Health Department chart released last Wednesday, Phase 1A is focused on vaccinating healthcare workers who work in hospitals or smaller medical facilities, long-term care center employees and residents, and employees and clients of intellectual disability centers.
“We need more people to help administer the vaccines because we are doing it with our medical personnel, but the National Guard doesn’t consist only of medical personnel,” Reyes said. “Fortunately, we have begun training volunteers from different medical schools who have raised their hands, will finish [their] training on Monday [today], and will begin working on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, he said that as the PRNG is expected to open a new vaccination center this week, its efforts are focused on expanding the vaccination to Arecibo at Manuel “Petaca” Iguina Coliseum.
“We are supposed to begin operating from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.,” Reyes said. “However, due to high demand, we are beginning vaccinations at 7 a.m.”
Meanwhile, to enforce oversight during the vaccination process, Reyes said the PRNG is “requesting a letter certified by your doctor that you work in that office.”
“They will ask for your ID, and they will ask for proof that you really work in that office,” he said.
Regarding allegations circulating through social media outlets that people are sneaking in to get the COVID vaccine, Reyes said the Health Department is looking into every medical facility that is providing false certifications, noting that “the PRNG is not in charge of investigating.”
As for the number of vaccines administered, Reyes said the PRNG is yet to have an official number. However, he said that “approximately 1,300 vaccines were administered during the first day.”
“On other days, we have administered around 610-650 vaccines; we can’t [vaccinate] more people due to the protocol,” he said. “You arrive, you get a [body temperature] screening, you have to fill out a Health Department document that requires information on both sides, which takes time, you get the vaccine and you have to wait around 10-15 minutes. If you add that up for one person per time, the first day we finished at 11 p.m., then we realized that we have to administer the vaccine for the first 600 people, instead of the first 600 vehicles.”
“We had to think about those physicians and nurses who are working the seven days of the week, and if we keep them working until 11 p.m., at the end of the day, what will happen to them?” Reyes added.
At press time, the PRNG told the STAR that around 686 vaccines were administered Sunday.