The Senior Community Center on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where on January 29, 2021, volunteers staffed a coronavirus vaccine clinic. Photos: Jovelle Tamayo for Elemental

Behind the Scenes at a Covid-19 Vaccination Center

How Bainbridge Island’s Medical Reserve Corp is making sure not a single dose goes to waste

Wudan Yan
Elemental
Published in
9 min readFeb 15, 2021

The early morning drizzle stopped just as Loren Bast parked his car outside the senior community center on Bainbridge Island in Washington state on a Friday in late January. He strode purposefully inside and put on a reflective blue vest over his maroon jacket.

Bast, the executive director of Bainbridge Prepares — a mutual aid organization dedicated to building community resilience — has been… busy, to say the least. Since the end of December, he’s been leading the vaccine rollout in Bainbridge and the surrounding Kitsap County with the island’s volunteer-run Medical Reserve Corps.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Medical Reserve Corps (MRCs) sprouted up all over the country to help communities respond in times of crisis. MRCs comprises volunteers who have a medical background or are trained in emergency preparedness, such as paramedics or EMTs. In Western Washington, MRCs were primarily concerned about natural disasters: earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires. Pandemics weren’t top of mind (though the MRC on Bainbridge certainly considered them).

(L) Loren Bast, executive director of the Bainbridge Prepares Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). (R) Dr. Andrea Chymiy, a volunteer at the MCR clinic.

Bainbridge is a quick ferry ride to Seattle and connected by land to the rest of Kitsap County — two places with many hospital systems. In late 2019 two family doctors, Andrea Chymiy, MD, and David Cowan, MD, decided to take advantage of the outsized medical talent on the island and gathered up volunteers to create an MRC. “We wanted to find out who lived here,” says Chymiy; the inception wasn’t necessarily inspired by a particular event or need. However, this organizing proved useful when the pandemic hit. “We had a large group at our fingertips, ready to be called,” says Chymiy. Volunteers helped out at test sites around the island and county, and also did on-site testing at nursing homes where there were outbreaks.

Today the MRC is focused on administering vaccines to members of the community. To date, they’ve vaccinated more than 2,000 people who are in the…

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Wudan Yan
Elemental

Journalist based in Seattle. wudanyan.com