The COVID vaccination event March 12 in Bernalillo was a collaboration of Sandoval County Fire and Rescue, New Mexico Aging and Long-term Services Department, Albertsons Pharmacy, the Town of Bernalillo and the Sandoval County Senior Center. Photo by Amy Byres.

An Albertsons pharmacist says being able to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine reaffirmed his faith in humanity.

Uri Bassan said it almost feels like his whole life has been leading up to helping in the mass vaccination against COVID-19.

On March 12 at the Town of Bernalillo Recreation Center, over 1,000 shots of the Moderna vaccine were distributed. The following Thursday, 500 more were administered.

The state’s vaccine registration system randomly selects those within the appropriate phase to be immunized.

“What is special about this is we are reaching out to those high-risk populations and ensuring they get prioritized,” Bassan said. “So that is why this event is different and a little bit more special than other events, because this wasn’t random. We leveraged our relationship with the senior center to seek out the senior population.”

The event was done in collaboration with Sandoval County Fire and Rescue, New Mexico Aging and Long-term Services Department, Albertsons Pharmacy, the Town of Bernalillo and the Sandoval County Senior Center.

To register for vaccination, visit the New Mexico Department of Health website at cvvaccine.nmhealth.org.

“Every single day, somebody cries — every single day. They will start crying, ‘I got the shot. For a year, I have been locked up, I’ve been isolated, I have had so much anxiety and it is washing away now that I got the shot,’ and they cry and they make you cry,” he said.

Bassan has been to many rural parts of the state, aiding in vaccination.

When he was in Vaughn, a man in his 30s asked if Bassan could vaccinate his parents outside because they could not get out of the car. Bassan did, and afterward, the son hugged him.

“He hugged me and embraced me, a perfect stranger. When in your life would that ever happen?” Bassan said. “I love doing this so much because when I did flu shots, the only people that ever cried were the kids because they didn’t want a shot.

“So this is so different from that and it makes you feel so good when you go home at night. And people keep calling me a hero, and I am like, ‘I showed up with a cooler.’ The (volunteers) are the heroes.”

About 80 volunteers worked the event, most from the Medical Reserve Core. To volunteer, visit volunteer.nmmrcserves.org.

Some volunteers were Sandoval County Fire and Rescue cadets, and University of New Mexico pharmacy student Heather Umberson.

“I enjoy doing this more than my paid job,” Umberson said. “It is very rewarding being here.”

People often thank her as a volunteer, but she is thankful to everyone who is getting the vaccine.

“It is really impressive, and it does bring back your faith in humanity, especially with the way things have been going of the last year. It is the most rewarding part of my life,” she said.

According to a report from NPR, New Mexico ranks first in the percent of the population with at least one dose, about 30 percent, as of Thursday.

“How many good lists is New Mexico No. 1 on?” Bassan said. “And this is the one that we are on, so for somebody to be a part of it makes you feel so good, even if you’re an unseen warrior in the back doing the data entry. To know you are part of something that is important and that we are winning.”

Assistant Editor at Rio Rancho Observer