ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were first receiving the vaccine, many of the people helping with that process were volunteers.
Now, as people return to a more normal lifestyle with fewer COVID restrictions, the Rock Island County Health Department is preparing for the next health crisis. But to do that, the department needs some help.
"COVID has just brought MRC to the forefront," said Kate Meyer, manager of the Rock Island County Emergency Planning. "Without the MRC, we couldn't have done the mass vaccination responses that we've done since 2020."
The MRC is short for the Medical Reserve Corps. It is an all-volunteer group that has helped make the COVID-19 vaccination process easier, among other volunteer efforts on both sides of the river.
"They help out with form checks, temperature checks, post vaccination observation," Meyer said.
Since its founding in 2006, the Rock Island Medical Reserve Corps has helped the community during several major health crisis, including the H1N1 swine flu outbreak. The group has also helped with relief in Scott County during the historic 2019 flood.
However, there is one catch.
"Volunteers are what they are: volunteers," Meyer said. "They help when they can but they also have their own lives."
At its peak, the Rock Island County Health Department had nearly 250 volunteers signed up to help. Right now, that number is closer to 180 or 185, Meyer said.
"There's you know about 141,000 people in Rock Island County," Meyer said. "When you're trying to vaccinate all those people at once, you need all hands on deck."
Now, the health department is getting some extra help.
"We were one of three medical reserve corps units in the state to receive $75,000," Meyer said.
That grant, which was awarded to the health department from the National Association of County and City Health Officials, will help in recruiting efforts for this little-know, yet essential program.
"Obviously, you hadn't heard of us or not much about us," Meyer said. "Now we're gonna get out there and people are gonna know who we are."
You can learn more about the Rock Island County Medical Reserve Corps by visiting the department's website.
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