Sanford & VA collaborating to vaccinate rural communities

Getting the COVID-19 vaccines out to rural areas is a priority

A man with an eagle and flag tattoo rolls up his sleeve at a COVID-19 vaccination event for veterans.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccines out to rural areas, like Salem, South Dakota, is a priority for Sanford Health.

“What we’re seeing is, people are more likely to get the vaccine if it’s closer to them,” Matt Van Voorhis, Sanford Health emergency management specialist, said.

Partnering with the VA

Conveniently located vaccination clinics are also high on the list for the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System.

“I’m here to get my COVID-19 shot from the VA,” veteran Rick Safar said.

So, the two systems are collaborating to get the shot to as many as they can.

“They said, ‘Would you care to have one next week?’ I said sure!” Safar said.

Find a clinic: Getting your COVID-19 vaccine from Sanford Health

The Bridgewater resident served three tours in Korea with the Army. Now, he’s getting his first dose alongside fellow vets at the Salem Armory.

“Sanford reached out to us and asked if we wanted to partner in a COVID vaccine clinic. Anything that’s going to be beneficial to the veterans, we’re all about it,” Lynn Meints, Sioux Falls VA program manager for home-based primary care and contract nursing homes, said.

‘COVID is a world problem’

Meints has worked at the VA for 28 years. While Sanford nurses are taking care of the general population in Salem, her team is vaccinating the veterans.

“COVID is a world problem, not a Sanford problem or VA problem. When you’re tackling something that big, you have to be partners otherwise you’re not going to be successful. I think it’s fantastic,” Meints said.

Pastor Trevor Schubert, a former Air Force firefighter, swooped in from Madison, South Dakota.

“Excited. Thankful to be able to have it,” Schubert said. “Just thankful for all the people that are serving and working and making this happen.”

Bill Eichacker lives three blocks away.

“I was shocked when I heard you could get it in your hometown. It’s a great deal,” Eichacker said.

He’s actually getting the shot in the same building he served in as part of the South Dakota National Guard.

“This was where the section chiefs hung out with the gunnery sergeants. So, we had our monthly meetings in here,” Eichacker said.

Sanford/VA relationship growing

Sanford Health has worked on several national projects with the Department of Veterans Affairs in the past.

“I think it’s been a huge success story,” Weckman said. “That relationship continues to grow.”

Growing to meet the health care needs with events like this in rural America.

“We’re sharing resources and sharing space,” Van Voorhis said.

Making it easier for busy people near small towns to receive care.

Weckman says “They’re farming. They’re ranching. The local barber here. His business, if he were to go get the shot today, the vaccine, he would have to close down his private business today and be gone for the whole day.”

Thanks to Sanford and the VA joining forces, the barber won’t have to miss out. Neither will his fellow veterans.

“Lot of other guys gave more than what I ever put into it. You got to take care of them. They’re the guys that are taking care of us. Guys and women, it’s imperative they get good health care,” Safar said.

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Posted In Community, Coronavirus, Rural Health, Veterans

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