COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out, Thanks to Volunteers Like Professor Elizabeth Cohn

Elizabeth Cohn

By Bonnie Eissner

Elizabeth Cohn and her husband Bruce spent their 30th wedding anniversary, February 3, 2021, volunteering at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Westbury, New York. The couple met in 1988 while volunteering as emergency medical technicians in Glen Cove, New York, and the COVID vaccination rollout gave them a chance to volunteer together again. “We were wondering how to celebrate our 30 years together,” Elizabeth Cohn told Newsday, “and concluded that it’s best to celebrate by continuing our service to others.”

Elizabeth Cohn is the associate provost for research at Hunter College and a professor of nursing at The Graduate Center. She was one of the first registered nurses to volunteer at the pop-up vaccination site in Westbury. According to the New York State COVID-19 tracker, just over 41% of state residents have received at least one vaccine dose as of April 16. As the state tries to vaccinate all adult residents, volunteers like Cohn and her husband are on the front lines, administering vaccines and helping to operate vaccination sites. She offered an inside look at the experience as well as a tip on how to get involved in the effort.

At the Westbury site and other sites where Cohn and her husband have worked, volunteers were responsible for administering about 550 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 in an eight-hour day. “We had to focus and keep people moving,” Cohn said. One volunteer at the Westbury site led the staffers in a morning yoga routine to help them limber up for the day. Few of the volunteers were fully vaccinated when they started working. Cohn stayed safe by double masking and being as careful as possible. 

Cohn is especially grateful to the volunteers she called runners. “Because of the way the vaccination works, they bring you each individual dose in a syringe,” Cohn said. She added that there weren’t any wasted doses at the end of the day. 

Cohn found the experience rewarding, as most of the people she vaccinated were “very grateful, very nice.” On Valentine’s Day, one of the men Cohn vaccinated gave her a box of chocolates, which she said, “was just lovely.” She shared a photo on Twitter

Cohn stopped volunteering in March as the demands of work increased, but her husband continues to work at the Westbury site two days a week. 

Cohn first got involved in the vaccination effort because she is a longtime member of the Nassau County Medical Reserve Corps, a group of volunteers that respond to public health emergencies and support local public health initiatives. Most cities and counties have medical reserve corps. Some require volunteers to have medical training, while others, like the one in Nassau County, also accept non-medical assistance. 

“It’s a pretty amazing tribute to people’s willingness to volunteer,” Cohn said of the vaccination effort. She urged anyone who is interested to volunteer. “The need is still great,” she said. 

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Submitted on: APR 23, 2021

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