From Athletic Trainer To Vaccinator

The U.S. is vaccinating more than 2.8 million people a day, and some states are keeping up with demand by expanding who can give the shot.
Posted at 6:54 PM, Apr 02, 2021

You may not think of the gym and vaccines having much in common, but as the U.S. vaccinates more than 2.8 million people a day, some states are turning to health professionals that, pre-COVID, would be here, to help. 

At Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, New Jersey, it’s a very busy day. They’re giving about 1,200 vaccines. That means hundreds of vaccine cards. Hundreds of people getting a first dose of Moderna. Hundreds of second doses, too. 

"Are you guys here for your first or second shot? Excellent. Second shot. Good. "

And as many vaccinators as they can get.

"How many people have I vaccinated? Maybe roughly, like, 300."

Working to help with shots: Daniela Dibella, who just weeks ago never imagined she’d be doing this. 

"I was actually very nervous. You know, the first person I vaccinated right after, he was like, 'Oh, that wasn't bad. But I was going to scream to make you nervous.'"

At the end of February, New Jersey issued waivers that temporarily permit licensed athletic trainers to administer COVID-19 vaccines. So now, Dibella has gone from working with athletes to working with folks in their community. 

"I just got my second shot and I feel relieved. I'm one step closer to some normalcy."

An athletic trainer is different from a personal trainer you might see in the gym. They’re certified, licensed health care professionals who practice in the field of sports medicine with high school, college and professional teams. 

"Although we don't have official training on how to handle a pandemic, we've all been able to step up. Because in the world of athletics, everything is always unpredictable," said Jessica Springstread, president of the Athletic Trainer Society of New Jersey.

"The athletic trainers provide a lot of help and they're essential to getting the vaccines into the patients. They help draw up the vaccines, they help monitor the patients afterwards, and they help to actually administer the vaccines and to the people that need them the most," Janice Mazurek, director of nursing at Bergen New Bridge Vaccine Site, said.

The athletic trainers must go through additional training before they can start poking arms. But with more than 1,300 members of the Athletic Trainer Society of New Jersey, it is a huge potential dose of help.  

"We're making a difference and we're changing people's lives with these vaccines," Dibella said.

Trainers are just one example of licensed professionals that are helping with the vaccine efforts. Some states have also added nursing students, dentists and veterinarians, too.