Call in the Reserves: How Broward County Volunteers are Helping the Vaccination Effort

Posted on 05/17/21 by Dave Bruns

Active and retired nurses, doctors and other health-care professionals are volunteering throughout Florida to help in the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Andrew Gross firefighter volunteer comes out of retirement to help with vaccine rollout

And then there’s the Broward Medical Reserve Unit (http://browardmru.com/). It’s taken the concept of volunteering to another level.

Some 1,700 volunteers have signed up in a single county, and 350 to 400 volunteers are actively engaged in the effort. Many are active or retired doctors, nurses or other health-care professionals. Volunteers are assisting vaccination efforts in nine Points of Dispensing (PODS) that are run by the Florida Department of Health in Broward County (DOH-Broward) in partnership with Broward County, Broward Sheriff’s Office and municipalities. 

Broward Medicare Reserve Unit CEO Dr. Warren Sturman and other unit leaders also have recruited top-shelf leadership. The manager in charge of logistics for the volunteers assisting with the vaccination effort oversaw logistics for Avis Car Rental across the continent of Europe. The information technology unit leader works in the information technology field for Hard Rock Casino.

The Broward effort calls on a rich heritage of public-health service. Nearly 175,000 health-care professionals nationwide have volunteered for the Reserve Medical Corps, formally a part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. 

Marilyn Pearce Baptist Hospital, retired nurse comes out of retirement to help with vaccine rollout

Organized under a 2002 law passed by Congress during the national mobilization following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the volunteers form an important part of the nation’s public health service. Together with the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have provided health-care support during many national crises.

In Broward County, the Reserve Medical Unit volunteers have made a significant contribution to the vaccination rollout in Broward County, administering thousands of vaccines in regularly scheduled vaccination clinics, working with patients to schedule vaccination appointments and working closely with DOH-Broward and the Broward County Medical Association (BCMA).

As of May 14, some 897,000 Broward County residents had received the vaccination, or 56 percent of the county’s population age 16 and up – above the state’s vaccination rate.

“Everybody has a skill, whether you’re directing traffic or putting a consent form in someone’s hands,” said Lori Green, a retired nurse who works an average of 30 hours a week leading the volunteer nurses administering vaccines. “We’re working outdoors, in South Florida, and you have the elements to contend with. It could be raining. In January it got quite cold.  It can be very long hours on your feet.”

But Green says it’s eminently worth the work. “We’re there to get vaccines in arms,” Green said. “It’s absolutely public service.”

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Find information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine in your state. CDC information is available at cdc.gov/coronavirus; additional AARP information and resources are at aarp.org/coronavirus. En español, visite aarp.org/elcoronavirus.

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