Pulling together for their community, Carla Aponte Johnson, Vanessa Santiago and Johanna Rodriguez pivoted from their usual work in Community Health to organize and implement local COVID-19 testing and vaccination events. Because of them, ChristianaCare caregivers administered more than 6,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in our community, at schools, small businesses and churches across Delaware. Aponte Johnson, director of Community Health & Social Integration, shares their experience.

Vanessa Santiago, Community Health Program Manager

Proud Dog Mom. Loves Taking Photos.

Carla Aponte Johnson, Community Health Director

Puerto Rican Born. Documentary Fan.

Johanna Rodriguez, Community Health Program Coordinator

World Wrestling Fan. Avid Crocheter.

It started with supporting the testing centers back when we didn’t have the COVID testing availability that we have now. ChristianaCare set up two sites in the community, at Kingswood Community Center and the Latin American Community Center, because they were the communities with the greatest need. Jo and Vanessa got involved because their work had to be put on hold as a safety precaution. I told them, “COVID is happening. We can’t do the work we usually do, but I need your help. Can you do this with me?” So, they started helping me with the testing stations.

Vaccines for 6,000

Once we got the vaccine, I asked them to pivot from testing events to vaccination events. Except we had to learn how to do them. We didn’t know about dosing, so we talked to colleagues in Pharmacy. We had no idea about transportation, so we coordinated with Transportation and Operations. For us, it was like an orchestra. Everybody did something different, and there were a lot of moving pieces. But we had to do this together.

One of our first events at the Community Education Building in Wilmington was for 900 people and everybody had to be registered. Jo and Vanessa learned the ins and outs with me. Thankfully, Vanessa is a spreadsheet guru who works really fast. Jo is really good with organizing and talking to people. We couldn’t have done any of this without them.

We’ll tell our grandkids about this someday

We took hundreds of calls from people when the vaccine was first becoming available. People would drive around in their cars at our events, asking, “You have guys have any leftover vaccine?” It was chaos, but it was fun.

At the end of the events, we would always say, “We’re going to tell our grandkids that we did this for our community.” On days when the lines were long, we said, “Don’t forget, we’re going to tell our families about this one.”

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