East County

Cal Fire Takes Vaccines Where They Aren't

Firefighters focus efforts on vaccinating residents in San Diego's East County

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Amber Hall didn’t expect it to happen so soon.

“Somebody posted on Facebook, and I said, ‘Let me check if they have openings,’ " Hall told NBC 7. "And they had openings and I am here.”

The Alpine resident was standing in line outside the San Ysidro Health Mountain Health Family Medicine building in Campo. She said she felt nervous about getting the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

“I was excited to get it over with,” Hall said, her eyes smiling above a black face mask.

Cal Fire was excited, too. The firefighters partnered with the county of San Diego, San Ysidro Health and several other organizations to administer 150 one-and-done J&J vaccines Wednesday. It’s called Operation Collaboration. It’s a much smaller load to carry than the thousands of doses distributed at the county’s vaccination super stations.

“We’re not pumping out the same amount of numbers,” Cal Fire Capt. Thomas Shoots said, “but we’re focusing on those folks who are harder to get to.”

There are thousands of residents living in San Diego’s East County who for one reason or another can’t get or make an appointment at San Diego or South Bay.

“Just because it’s accessible to the masses doesn’t mean it’s accessible to everybody,” Shoots said.

Shoots said he regularly posts appointment openings on Cal Fire social media to make sure they're all filled.

“We’re not letting our foot off the gas pedal," Shoots said. "We’re not going to let up. We’re going to stay out here. We’ve even gone to folks' homes to vaccinate them, who couldn’t make it out on-site. So we’re going above and beyond to do everything we can to reach these people.”

When her turn came, Hall walked into the San Ysidro Health building and sat next to a heavily protected Cal Fire firefighter. She rolled up her sleeve and got her single-dose vaccine.

“Let’s just get it done," Hall said. "I want to be done.”

Hall became one of more than 32,000 East County residents vaccinated by Cal Fire. She said she looked forward to things returning to normal.

“I can’t wait,” Hall said with a sigh.

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