What was your first reaction upon seeing this photo? Perhaps it was like mine: queasiness bordering on nausea. What in blazes are all these unmasked people doing standing cheek by jowl?!? "That was the type of reaction we're going for," says Dr. Neal Smoller of Woodstock Apothecary. "It looks strange. But we want to get to a point where this doesn't look strange to people anymore." All the people in the photo are vaccinated against COVID. They are members of Smoller's 150-person strong volunteer army, helping the pharmacist stage mass vaccination events in and around Woodstock. Over three days in early March, 3,500 people were vaccinated in the Saugerties Junior High gymnasium in a clinic set up by Smoller.
As of mid-March, Smoller had vaccinated 6,000 people in all, and he claims he now has the infrastructure in place to administer 10,000 doses of vaccine per week, though Smoller expects he won't get more than 1,000 doses a week. That said, the ability of the community to pitch in as a volunteer vaccination unit has had a direct effect on the speed at which it achieves herd immunity. "For people in our neck of the woods—Woodstock, Saugerties, Kingston—life is going to return to normal faster than in other parts of the state and the country," says Smoller. "The only way I can do this at the speed I can do it is because of the volunteer army. Helping people is addictive and infectious."