The Bridge Between: The Vaccine Equity Task Force vaccinates CHIMES employees at BWI Airport
By Sgt. Arcadia Hammack, 58th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade
“I was contemplating getting the vaccine,” said Robert Johnson, shrugging his shoulders. “I have lived in the Parks Height/Randallstown area since the 60’s, and I haven’t been vaccinated since.”
Johnson was notorious for his disbelief in vaccines, but back at home, his wife has some underlying health conditions. She fears of contracting COVID-19 and received the vaccine as soon as she could. Johnson, on the other hand, was opposed.
As a custodian contractor with CHIMES at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, an intervening-opportunity came about.
CHIMES, a not-for-profit organization based in Baltimore, Maryland, provides a wide array of services for people with intellectual and behavioral challenges. This includes assisting with employment, like some of the CHIMES contractors who work at BWI.
It was 7:30 a.m. on a slow Monday morning at the International Terminal at BWI, when Maryland National Guard members of Maryland’s Vaccine Equity Task Force, and a medical professional from Safeway, a local supermarket, began to set-up their COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
Safeway and VETF partnered together at BWI on May 17, 2021, to vaccinate members of CHIMES during their shifts.
It was fairly quiet, as the international terminal was empty. Distant voices and miscellaneous noises could be heard from the other side of the concourse at the ticketing section where all of the travelers were.
A CHIMES worker coming off night-shift could be found sleeping on a bench nearby, waiting for the vaccination clinic to open.
“Our mission here today is to spread the equity for these vaccines,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ralphael Smith, a member of Maryland National Guard Medical Detachment supporting the VETF. “We know some folks have a hard time getting to places to get vaccinated, so we’re here helping to get CHIMES [employees] who work here to get vaccinated.”
Just past 8 a.m., CHIMES employees began filing through the registration lines and questionnaires. Johnson wearily, but confidently, approaches the clinic. After seeing how the pandemic has affected his wife and after having some conversations, he ultimately decided that the benefits of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine outweighed his doubts.
“I was talking to my wife, and I want her to feel comfortable,” said Johnson. “If I get a shot, she has the shot, we’re both protected. I was going to make proper procedures to get it done anyway, but then my job offered it here thanks to you all. I don’t have to run around the city. wait in line, get denied, get frustrated. This worked for me since I am working from 6a.m. – 2 p.m. anyway, so it was made simple.”
Now that Johnson received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, he plans to show his wife his vaccination card, and her world will feel much safer.
The Maryland National Guard will continue to support Maryland’s COVID-19 response by providing direct support to county health departments, local organizations and faith-based organizations in order to ensure vaccine equity throughout the state, leaving no arms behind.