“Mission complete” usually marks a satisfactory end to a deployment. But frequently, a mission can end with a different purpose from which it began and still be a success.
A FEMA team of 29 deployed to West Virginia in February to supplement the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) state vaccination effort by helping register participants at vaccine clinics covering 55 counties.
Not long after arrival, however, the mission changed from going to sites around the state to being housed on a floor of the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) offices in downtown Charleston.
There, the team went down a list of those entered on the state vaccination registration system and contacted them via email, text and phone to schedule their vaccine appointments with Walgreens, a Federal Pharmacy Partnership provider. By the time the team’s deployment was completed in mid-March, nearly 40,000 registrants had been scheduled for their COVID-19 shots.
While the venue may have changed, the goal of getting shots in arms was met. Further, the FEMA team’s work served as a bridge between registration managed by the state to a decentralized model where Walgreens, federally qualified clinics and independent pharmacies would also schedule their own vaccination appointments.
“We always use the term ‘FEMA flexible’ when circumstances change and the team has to make adjustments. This deployment was perfect example of that,” said Janice Barlow, Acting Regional Administrator, FEMA Region 3. “By working together with our state and private sector partners, the team was still able to meet the goal of getting shots in arms, even if it took a different path to get there.”
FEMA’s state partners voiced similar sentiments.
“The teamwork between FEMA, DHHR, the Board of Pharmacy, the rest of the JIATF and Walgreens really represents how the vaccine effort is done in West Virginia,” said Lisa Costello, a West Virginia University pediatrics hospitalist at the JIATF, who served as the point person for the operation. “Everybody came together to get the vaccination scheduling done by adapting to changes in a short time.”
State residents can call their local Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, Fruth or local independent pharmacy to schedule vaccine appointments. They can also find and schedule appointments at vaccinefinder.org. West Virginians can still register for their COVID-19 vaccine at www.vaccinate.wv.gov or by calling the West Virginia COVID-19 Info Line at 1-833-734-0965. Visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html for more information about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Leeandra Buttry, a FEMA reservist from Lakeland, Fla., seen on March 11, 2021, was deployed to work a Charleston, W.Va., call center set up by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Operators from FEMA, the West Virginia National Guard and DHHR contacted nearly 40,000 registrants to schedule vaccine appointments at the state’s Walgreens pharmacies. (Philip Maramba/FEMA)
Nick Buls, an Emergency Management Specialist from FEMA Region 3 in Philadelphia, seen on March 11, 2021, was deployed to work a Charleston, W.Va., call center set up by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Operators from FEMA, the West Virginia National Guard and DHHR contacted nearly 40,000 registrants to schedule vaccine appointments at the state’s Walgreens pharmacies. (Philip Maramba/FEMA)