Written by Jennifer Chien
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
In order to help the community amid the ongoing pandemic, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation (TCMF) in the U.S. obtained the COVID-19 vaccine issued by the government as of February 2021. The vaccine was administered at Tzu Chi Medical Center in Alhambra, CA, from February 9th to the 11th.
Vaccination In Phases
Dr. Stephen Denq, the Chief Executive Officer of TCMF in the USA, said that the pandemic in the United States is still severe, and the only way to control the spread is by relying on proper vaccination. Since Tzu Chi Medical Foundation has received its certification as a Federal Qualified Health Center Look-Alike (FQHC Look-Alike), it was able to apply for these vaccines.
Dr. Denq explained how Tzu Chi carefully followed the government’s vaccine administration phases. First, all the doctors and staff at the clinics under the Medical Foundation’s administration were given two doses of vaccines. After that, it can be made available to residents over 65 years of age. Then, the next phase of vaccination will be available for food and agriculture workers, education and childcare, and emergency services.
At the end of January, the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in the USA opened a vaccination appointment hotline for patients and Tzu Chi volunteers to register. Once the vaccine was available, volunteers followed the procedure for registration and notified eligible individuals to go to the clinic for vaccination. Since the number of vaccines available is limited, volunteers reminded qualified residents to register at the county’s health bureau to ensure they can be given the vaccine.
Emma Aguirre, a nurse in charge of the schedule of vaccine administration, explained that this can be a very stressful task, “Because we must comply with the government regulations, and patients must also be informed that we must follow guidelines required to register first, and then arrange for qualified individuals to be vaccinated according to the order registration.”
Serving Residents Every Step Of The Way
Even though the government has opened many locations for COVID-19 vaccination, many Chinese-speaking residents still rely heavily on Tzu Chi’s medical services. Dr. Julie Lam, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in the USA, described one case as an example wherein a visually impaired patient who didn’t understand English required the vaccine. The couple has no children, relatives, or friends that can help register them online. They also don’t have easy access to transportation to get to other vaccination stations, such as the one at Dodger Stadium. TCMF, where volunteers can speak Chinese and help fill out the forms, was the only place they could conveniently get the medical attention they needed.
Preventive actions must be taken during the vaccination process, and Tzu Chi’s medical team continues to improve its workflow of the vaccination process. The first day of vaccination was administered in the clinic, the following day, tents were set up in the open space behind the office for an outdoor vaccination site. With the extra outdoor space, patients were able to wait safely outside while adhering to social distancing procedures.
Each bottle of the vaccine received can be divided into ten doses. Once taken out of refrigeration, however, these ten doses must be divided immediately and administered within six hours to be effective. Therefore, the volunteers made appointments in groups of ten individuals, giving them time to administer the vaccines and guide patients to avoid crowds. The love and care of the medical staff and volunteers thrives through attention to detail, the patients’ health and safety always firmly in mind.
A Sense Of Belonging At Tzu Chi
Fenglian is a patient and her husband is a physician with Tzu Chi. As soon as she arrived at the check-in area, she was met by volunteers. When asked why she chose to come to Tzu Chi for the vaccine, she said it was because Tzu Chi Medical Center is a warm and comfortable place. She also pointed out that TCMF is known for its many dedicated volunteers and skilled nurses who are always ready to help. Tzu Chi Medical Center is also relatively close to where she lives.
Yan Li accompanied her mother and father to the center for their vaccinations. She praised the caring doctors and volunteers, her mother happily sharing that “The nurse is skilled and I feel no pain from the shot. I feel more at ease after the first shot. I’m sure after the second shot, I’ll be completely relieved.”
Huijun Ma and her husband Chuanzhou Cao were the first group of TCMF volunteers in the United States. They drove over an hour from Santa Monica to Tzu Chi Medical Center for the vaccinations. They recalled how they used to come to Tzu Chi as volunteers years ago. The medical outreach events were held in remote villages and beyond. Nowadays, they seldom go out, and talking about those days at Tzu Chi brought forth many emotions.
When the pandemic spread across the U.S., Tzu Chi volunteers delivered PPE that was in short supply to frontline medical workers in urgent need. When the government started the vaccination program, Tzu Chi medical team immediately applied to help the local community. During the pandemic, Tzu Chi’s medical staff and volunteers have continued to safeguard the health of the community. And through these concentrated efforts amid this pandemic of the century, we hope to welcome the arrival of spring without the continued spread of COVID-19.