“I don’t want to die from Covid.”
For all the answers as to why folks were showing up at the pop-up Covid-19 vaccine clinic held at Liberty Bank on July 17, Boulder Creek resident Makayla Lockard had the most succinct, pull-no-punches response of the day.
The 19-year-old was one of 40 people who visited the Boulder Creek branch of the bank to receive one of two offered vaccines: the “one and done” Janssen/Johnson & Johnson variety, or the two-dose Pfizer shot for those 12 and older. Both were offered at no cost to residents who might otherwise have forgone the vaccine altogether, were it not for the convenience of the Downtown Boulder Creek location.
Rotary Club of San Lorenzo Valley Co-president Justin Acton was the primary mover and shaker of the four-week event, dubbed Vax The Valley, although he’s quick to spread the praise amongst other Rotarians and community partners.
“When I suggested the idea of hosting a pop-up vaccination clinic, there was unanimous consensus amongst the Rotary Club that it was a good idea,” he said. “Not one member was opposed—they all said, ‘How can we help?’ Within just a few days, we had County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel on board, and the whole project came together very quickly after that.”
Acton was glad that county officials had his back.
“Some people are hesitant to jump into the vaccine conversation because it’s become politicized, and it shouldn’t be,” he said. “This isn’t a political issue, it’s a community health issue, and Rotary members realized that we weren’t forcing people to get vaccinated, but we were just offering the opportunity to do so if they wished.”
The push for the Boulder Creek location was based on statistics, Acton said. He recently read an article that said North Santa Cruz County had a lower vaccination rate than the county and the state.
“Locals were having trouble either navigating the medical system or getting rides to a vaccination location, so this seemed like something we could offer to help the community,” he said.
Acton also gives credit to Liberty Bank Manager Gina Klamner, whohas fully embraced its corporate mission to serve its community in multiple ways.
“We have supported other programs, like holding a Feed the Community Soup Night at the Odd Fellows Hall, and we’re always looking for ways to get more involved,” said Klamner, who has worked at the bank for 17 years.
Klamner said that both Rotary and the Santa Cruz Health Agency reached out to her, asking for her to open her branch doors as a way to improve the health of the community; Klamner didn’t bat an eye when asked.
“We think it’s important that the whole valley has the same opportunity as others to receive the vaccine,” she said. “Based on the responses from attendees, the biggest issue for most people was access to reliable transportation; the fact that we’re right here, in their backyards, allows them to come to a place they are familiar with, and get their shots.”
Danielle Solick of the Santa Cruz Health Agency’s Public Health Division was thrilled to watch locals stream into the bank. After just a year with the agency, she’s already seen a lot within her role.
“When I first joined, I was immediately deployed to the CZU Fire Response to help with staffing our medical health unit at the shelters,” she said.
She was based in Santa Cruz at the time, but has since broadened her reach into the San Lorenzo Valley and across the county as a clinic manager. Solick said that everyone on site on July 17 was volunteering their time to run the clinic.
“We brought enough vaccine for 50 people; we normally see between 25-40 patients at a small event like this one, but even if we only administered one shot, it would be considered a success,” she said. “Every shot is a good shot.”
Solick admits that, despite messaging from the president and the medical community regarding the need for vaccination, “Most people listen to information from their peers.”
“I think the success of a clinic like this is duplicated by a factor of 2-3, because these recipients are going to talk to other people,” she said. “We don’t really aim for an outcome, but we rely on our community partners to tell us where they see a need, and we respond accordingly.”
When asked what her primary message is to the public, Solick is pensive.
“It’s tricky. I don’t want to negate anyone’s opinions, or tell someone that their research is wrong,” she said. “I would say it’s always important to be discussing medical decisions with medical providers. We rely so heavily on social media that conversations can get convoluted at times. Right now, we are focused on targeted convenience to bring people in.”
Filmmaker Dave Waller of Felton was on-site in an effort to make a film about the little clinic that could.
“I’ve been looking for interesting projects that could benefit from being made into a film, and this seemed like the kind of thing that could use good messaging around it,” he said. “Vaccinations have been on my mind for the past few months, and I wanted to put some focus on the need to get as many people as possible vaccinated for the overall health of our community.”
Simon Murphy, 20, from Boulder Creek showed up for his jab.
“I got the flyer in the mail, and it seemed like a great opportunity,” he said. “I definitely would have waited longer to get it if this clinic wasn’t here. I wasn’t in a rush, but since it was right here in town, I decided to just do it.”
Parent Sarah Wildflower strolled in with her two teens, 12-year-old Serenity and 16-year-old Phoenix. Asked why today was the day to get the vaccine administered to her and her daughters, Wildflower said, “I just think it’s a good idea, with things mutating now. My kids are going to be returning to school, and I’ll be going back to work eventually, and this clinic just made it so convenient.”
Looking to attend the next pop-up clinic? Liberty Bank in Boulder Creek will be hosting three more opportunities from 10am to 2pm on the next three Saturdays: July 24, July 31 and Aug. 7. No registration is needed. Santa Cruz Metro runs its Route 35 bus on Saturdays, and the stop at Hwy. 9 and Hwy. 236 is the most convenient drop-off/pick-up point. Free snacks, beverages and gift cards are available at the event. There is also free transportation available at 408-315-3056.