HARLINGEN – Marleni Lopez breathed a little easier after receiving her COVID-19 vaccine.
“I feel pretty good about it,” said Marleni, 17, as she and her sister Priscilla waited for a few minutes Tuesday at the Harlingen Convention Center.
Priscilla, 25, already had her shots; Marleni was the only member of her immediate family not yet vaccinated, so she drove her sister from San Benito. Marleni was grateful for the ride.
“It’s been a little difficult for a lot of people but now I feel more protected,” she said. “But I still need to take care of myself.”
Nurses and instructors from Valley Baptist Medical Center, Solara, and Harlingen Medical Center were on hand to deliver the vaccines.
However, those really on the front lines were 20 students from Harlingen School of Health Professions, who are in a dual enrollment with the licensed vocational nursing program at Valley Baptist Medical Center.
“Here, along with the nurses, we’re administering COVID-19 vaccines for the community, for the hospital, personnel,” said Maria Vargas, 18, a senior at HSHP who is also in the dual enrollment LVN program at Valley Baptist.
About 800 vouchers for the Pfizer vaccine had been given out.
“We’re just trying to give as many vaccines as possible,” Maria said. “I feel very honored to help the community move on from this pandemic that we have been suffering through. I’m excited to be a part of the LVN program at Valley Baptist and that they’re giving us this opportunity to help the community.”
It was a rare and valuable opportunity for the students, said Elizabeth Cisneros, RN, an instructor at HSHP and Valley Baptist.
“The City of Harlingen reached out to Valley Baptist and asked if we had any students who would like to participate in the COVID vaccination clinic,” she said. “I feel it’s a great opportunity for our students to get that experience. They’re giving back to the community.”
“It increases their confidence,” said Maureen Livermore-Rattray, an RN who is also a nursing instructor at Valley Baptist.
“It’s an opportunity to give back to our community,” said Livermore-Rattray. “We are very proud of the people we have, our students and faculty. Everybody has put in a lot of work.”
“They are doing an amazing job,” Cisneros said. “They are honored to be asked to be part of something big.”
The gravity of the moment was not lost on the students.
“I feel really privileged to have this opportunity,” said Kevyn Kruze, 18, a senior at HSHP.
“I hear a lot from the nurses and staff that they wish this was something they did back in high school and they agree it’s an amazing opportunity,” he said.
He was quick to point out the experience and skill of himself and his fellow LVN students.
“We’re giving vaccinations today, which is an intramuscular route,” he said. “We’ve already experienced giving other medications through intramuscular. We can also give medications subcutaneously. A lot of this we’re doing under the supervision of nurses and our instructors.”
The vaccination clinic began at about 7 a.m. and continued until noon. It was part of an effort to offer COVID-19 vaccines to younger segments of the population age 16 and up.