With the Sunbeam out of the water for its yearly painting, Sharon Daley, RN, Director of Island Health had to find different ways to travel to the islands this fall in order to administer flu vaccines and Covid boosters. To reach each island, Sharon and Director of Island Outreach and Chaplain Douglas Cornman, as well as the nurses who helped in the effort, traveled by five different boats and one plane. Collectively, they administered more than 300 shots over six weeks.
While the Sunbeam delivers the team to most islands, doing vaccine clinics without her means complex planning and timing. In addition to not having a place to store supplies, Sharon explains that the Mission boat provides a lot of the things she needs on a day-to-day basis. “I have no base, there is nowhere to leave equipment, there is nowhere to have meals, there is nowhere to sleep at night, there is no printer, and no internet.”
With the Sunbeam, Sharon has everything she needs onboard. Without, she packs everything to bring to each island. This fall, she used a house in Surry as a staging location while keeping supplies—from syringes and needles to gloves and vaccine cards—stashed in bins in her car for replenishment after each trip.
And while the Sunbeam can come and go as needed, mail boats and ferries run on a strict schedule and are susceptible to inclement weather and staffing changes. Bound for a clinic on Monhegan in early October, Sharon was left without a way to get to the island when the afternoon ferry was cancelled. The Mission was forced to reschedule the clinic for the following day, which required notifying each clinic registrant of the schedule change. By noon the next day, the vaccination team administered 91 shots in the span of four hours—roughly one vaccine every two and a half minutes.
For each clinic, Douglas and Sharon put out the word on Facebook and made posters alerting people to clinic times and registration information. They also make calls to community members who are homebound or do not use social media or email. From there, the Mission team determines how many vaccines are needed on each island.
To administer vaccine clinics on Matinicus, the most remote island that the Mission visits, Sharon jumped in a plane with needed supplies. She ran two clinics in a single day, including one for lobstermen after they finished work on their own boats. When high winds kept some islanders on the mainland, Sharon stayed until the next morning to administer vaccines to returning residents in the plane hangar of Penobscot Island Air.
Since the first Covid shots were available, Sharon and the team have given more than 1,300 Covid vaccines to island residents. With the last clinic complete, Sharon is already onto the next round of Island Health initiatives, including this fall’s Eldercare retreat, telemedicine appointments, and regular phone calls to island residents. You will find her back aboard the Sunbeam in November, making her regular, biweekly visits to the islands.