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Vernell Kline and Harold Hart sit in a waiting area after receiving COVID-19 vaccines  in Rio Rancho. (Photo by Richard Kehl)

Care Van Program Helps New Mexicans Access COVID-19 Vaccines

Rio Rancho resident Vernell Kline had an upcoming trip to visit her mother, and after talking with friends, she said she felt “inspired” to get the COVID-19 vaccine “and let all my fears just dissipate.”

After hearing on the radio that a COVID-19 vaccination clinic was being held nearby in Rio Rancho with no appointment necessary, she decided to stop by. The event was one of four Community COVID-19 Vaccination Health Fair and Resources events held in collaboration with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico (BCBSNM), Garza family McDonald’s and Walgreens.

“It was really easy,” Kline said, adding that the pharmacist at the event explained everything and made her feel comfortable. “She was like family.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, BCBSNM’s Care Van® mobile health program sought innovative partnerships that would help provide COVID-19 vaccines where New Mexicans live and work. As a result, BCBSNM teamed up with independent health care providers and community organizations to hold vaccine clinics at McDonald’s in Rio Rancho and Española — two events at each location to provide both first and second vaccines.

“We are all working together to make COVID-19 vaccines easily accessible to as many New Mexicans as possible,” said Dr. Wei-Ann Bay, BCBSNM chief medical officer. “The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to ensure the widest protection for the greatest number of people.”

The events provided walk-in COVID-19 vaccines administered at no cost by Walgreens in BCBSNM’s Care Vans, which are mobile health clinics. Children ages 12 and older who got a vaccine also received a card for a free McDonald’s All-American Meal item.

“At Garza-owned McDonald’s, we’re always looking for ways to make a difference in the communities we serve,” said Clemy Garza, McDonald’s owner and operator. “My organization is committed to the health and safety of our guests, crew and communities. That’s why we’re proud to host this community COVID-19 vaccination health fair and resources event.”

Attendees were also able to receive no-cost dental and vision screenings and information on local resources from community organizations, including the American Cancer Society, beWellnm, the Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque, and many more.

In total, the events provided 119 COVID-19 vaccines, 93 vision screenings and 13 dental screenings.

“The COVID shot — I can’t support that enough,” said Española Fire Chief Ron Padilla. “It really helps out our staff that are out in the field.”

The fewer people who get COVID-19, Padilla added, “the safer my crew can be.”

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association