By Jeri Davis
RENO, Nev.–Gov. Steve Sisolak today held an event to unveil one of two mobile vaccination units (MVU) recently brought to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help in vaccination efforts in rural areas.
Monday also marks the start of changes to vaccine eligibility in the state. Now, all Nevadans who are 16 or older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Today, I woke up, and it’s a much better day,” Sisolak said, standing in front of one of the MVU units. “It’s the first day that everyone 16 and older can get vaccinated.
“The time is now. Look online. Go to the websites. Make an appointment, and get a vaccine—whichever one is available. That’s what is going to get us out of this pandemic and get us through this entire situation,” he added.
The MVU unveiled in Reno will depart Tuesday to make 13 stops in rural communities across the state in the coming month. It will start its first day at the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and will complete its first rural vaccine effort in Northern Nevada in West Wendover on May 1.
Nevada’s Division of Emergency Management, the National Guard and Immunize Nevada teamed up with county and tribal officials to plan the use of the mobile units.
The MVU will be operated by nurses and vaccine preparers and should be able to accommodate 250 doses per day in each location. Nurses and vaccine preparers will be assisted by volunteers from Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that uses military veterans with first responders to deploy emergency response teams. Team Rubicon members will not help with vaccination but will manage things like traffic control at vaccine sites.
For its first round of vaccine delivery in Northern Nevada, the MVU will be loaded with doses of the single-shot Janssen vaccine. Its cool storage system can hold 8,000 doses. However, the MVU contains the colder type of storage system required for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as well, and those vaccines may be used at a later date depending on supplies allotted to the state.
“This will be on the road visiting the rural parts of our state, and all of you know that we’ve got some pretty parts of our state—our Tribal communities and so forth,” Sisolak said.“This is going to go a long way toward equity in making this available along the way, and we sincerely appreciate that.”
Local emergency service agencies will be on hand at each site the MVU stops to observe those receiving shots for any adverse reactions to the vaccine.
“We are now closer to the end than the beginning of this pandemic,” Sisolak said. “This is taking us steps closer to the end.”
Maxwell Domalavage, deputy program manager of mobile vaccination units with FEMA, explained that the MVU has a tent on either of its sides. The central trailer is used for storing and preparing vaccine doses. One tent is intended for delivery of shots. The tent on the opposite side serves as a waiting space for people who must wait 30 minutes after vaccination to be monitored for possible allergic reactions to the vaccines.
Those who don’t have a history of allergic reactions will wait for 15 minutes in their own vehicles. However, those without vehicles could also use the extended waiting period space, which can be heated or cooled, in the event of inclement weather.
Additionally, the MVU will be guarded at night by on-site security. It also has rolldown doors to prevent anyone from breaking into the area used to store and prepare vaccines.