820 doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine administered in drive-throughs in Greenlee County

Workers review paperwork to ensure all is in order was a big part of the drive-through vaccination on Saturday, Jan. 22, at Gila Gila Health Resources in Morenci. Reviewing documents are Laurie Dalton, seated, and from left to right are Lupita Barsness, Brandy McCormack, and Dahlia Stacy. The four are wrapped up to deal with the cold, windy day.

More vaccinations available this week

By Walt Mares

GREENLEE COUNTY – Lifesavers, as in the popular candy that comes in round pieces imitating a circular device used for rescue at sea? 

Hardly. Think of the “lifesavers” at Gila Health Resources who have vaccinated hundreds of people against the deadly COVID-19 virus. The  GHR staff inoculated 820 people from Thursday through Saturday. 

The effort was focused on people aged 65 and older who have underlying medical conditions. For many, one of the most common underlying health issues was diabetes.

The vaccines were provided at Gila Health in Morenci in Greenlee County. Staff from the Greenlee County Health Department assisted the Gila Health staff on Saturday.

More than 400,000 Americans have died due to the global pandemic of the COVID-19 virus. In the U.S., more than 75 million cases have been reported.

Arizona is among the COVID-19 infection hotspots in the U.S. Overall, there are 722,574 confirmed cases and 12,238 deaths. 

Greenlee County, the second smallest in size of Arizona’s 15 counties, has 508 infection cases and six deaths as of Jan. 24. It has the least number of cases in the state.

Neighboring Graham County, with a population of 38,746, has 4,779 cases and 63 deaths.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Brandy McCormick prepares to administer a covid-19 vaccination to a recipient waiting in a vehicle on Jan. 22 at Gila Health Resources in Morenci. She is bundled up for the cold, overcast day during which 193 vaccinations were given. During the three-day drive-through event, 820 people were vaccinated.

The county and town of Clifton both have laws requiring anyone who is in a public setting to wear protective face masks.

The Greenlee vaccination was a drive-through at GHR. Considering the many vehicles lined up it was not a long wait for people to be vaccinated. Nor did anyone have to stand in line in the chilly weather. The sky was overcast and a gentle wind blew at times.

It was comfortable and convenient for vaccine recipients. They were able to stay in their vehicles, roll down a window and receive shots in their arms. 

A Clifton man later recalled how he was quite averse to shots. “When I was in the Navy the medics always seemed to make it as painful as possible.” He said that this time as he grimaced, rolled up a T-shirt sleeve, and told the inoculator that he was ready to receive the shot. He waited and anticipated a sharp sting that often comes with inoculations.

To his surprise, he was told he had already received the shot. “I didn’t feel a thing,” he said. “Best and easiest shot I’ve ever had.”

After being vaccinated, recipients were required to stay on-site for at least 15 minutes in the event of a negative reaction to the vaccine. None were reported among the 820 doses administered.

Those receiving vaccinations were given cards to remind them when they are to have a second shot.

Freeport McMoran Inc. supported the inoculation effort. As people first drove into the GHR parking lot they were met by a stop sign. It was the initial checkpoint where Amanda Gray, Chief Quality Officer at Gila Health, checked a register of recipients and gave them paperwork to fill out.  Along with a registry the papers included information about the vaccine and what to do in the event of possible side effects.  

Assisting Gray was Rassie Ras, FMI’s Chief Health/Safety Supervisor.  Yes, both wore protective face masks throughout the day. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Those receiving covid vaccinations on Jan. 22 at Gila Health Resources were required to stop at the check-in point with Amanda Gray and Rassie Ras. They checked a schedule of when recipients arrived and were given simple paperwork to fill out. The sheets also contained information about the vaccine and what to do in the event of an allergic reaction, none of which were reported. Gray is head of the Gila Health quality office and Ras is senior health/safety officer with the Freeport McMoran copper mining company in Morenci.

More vaccinations coming

Gray said COVID-19 vaccinations are available throughout the week at Gila Health. The next drive-through event will be held Wednesday, Jan. 27, Friday, and Saturday.  The drive-through is for those from age 65 and older and for people with underlying medical conditions who are ages 18-64. 

The coming vaccine drive will include frontline workers such as FMI miners and grocery store employees. Bashas’, in Morenci, is the only full-service grocery store in the county. FMI has thousands of workers at its Morenci mine, which is the largest operating open-pit copper mine in North America. 

Call GHR at (928) 865-9184 to schedule a vaccination.

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