Christopher Pritza said he gained precious and unforgettable experience Saturday that he expects will help shape his future career in emergency medical services.
The Creighton University student was among other EMS, pharmacy and nursing students volunteering time to prepare or administer COVID-19 vaccines at a busy clinic at Creighton’s Rasmussen Center whose hours were extended.
“It’s really nice to be able to use the knowledge I’ve gained here as a student and be able to help out our community,” Pritza said. “I’m from Omaha myself, so some of the people coming through I’ve interacted with in the past.”
This weekend, the Douglas County Health Department expanded COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone 65 and older from the previous limit of 70 and older.
Health officials announced Thursday that the department had received additional doses of the vaccine and in turn lengthened the hours of the Saturday clinic it operates in cooperation with Creighton.
Dr. Julie Manz, assistant dean of the undergraduate nursing program at Creighton, said the goal was to administer 4,800 vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the help of the volunteers.
“We have approximately 260 volunteers from the Creighton University community alone, including staff, faculty and students from both the health professions and the undergraduate program,” she said.
Manz said that only first doses of the vaccine were being administered Saturday but that both first and second doses will be available next week.
Third-year pharmacy students Macey Graham and Sarah Schumacher were grateful for the front-line perspective.
“This is the most hands-on experience you can get,” Graham said.
Schumacher said it’s uplifting to see progress in battling the pandemic.
“It’s very exciting to see all these people contributing their part and fighting this virus,” she said. “The more people get vaccinated, the faster we’ll be able to return back to normal.”
For Eleanor Shirley and Dan Cox, receiving the vaccine was like light at the end of a tunnel. The two reminisced on a similar experience — receiving the polio vaccine as children.
“We had to line up on the sidewalk, and we got a polio vaccine and a sugar cube,” Shirley said.
Cox left the clinic feeling hopeful.
“We feel like we’re gonna be able to get together and hug our kids and grandkids and have some conversations with friends again,” he said.
Pritza, who has received both doses of the vaccination, said he felt proud to play a role in the clinic.
“I feel confident in the vaccine,” he said.