The Way We Work Now

What I’ve Learned Giving Vaccines in Rural America

We don’t have many doses yet. Giving them out fairly is a challenge.

Mai Tran
Published in
4 min readJan 19, 2021


Photo illustration; Image source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Way We Work Now is a series chronicling how people’s lives and careers have fundamentally changed because of the pandemic.

Leia, a thirtysomething pharmacy student in Texas, volunteers in administering the Covid-19 vaccine. She spoke with Mai Tran about the uneven distribution of vaccines across various regions.

I’m a doctoral student doing rural pharmacy rotations, and unfortunately, the majority of vaccines are going to large cities. Sometimes it’s hard to get our community to drive two or three hours to the nearest city that has vaccines. Regulations vary state by state so some places are better about distribution than others.

I was on a six-week rotation with Indian Health Service at Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma when we received a shipment of the Pfizer ultracold vaccine. It came to a hospital that had the storage capacity for it in a deep freezer. I watched a video on how to administer and store it, and started the campaign with hospital staff. I was furnished with surgical and N95 masks, face shields, and gloves. The vaccine was hard to transport storage-wise, so we had people come to us. Everything was completed within two weeks of us getting the doses for the health care workers.

I came back to my school in Texas just before Christmas, and the university sent out an email saying they had gotten the Moderna vaccine and were looking for volunteers to vaccinate health care workers. I volunteered and got my vaccine at the same time. My team had an OB-GYN doctor and several nurse practitioners. We did health care workers first — I actually vaccinated several nurses who were interested in volunteering, but we didn’t necessarily need them for that period. On our last day we had 1,000 doses left. Not all the students were in town because it was winter break, so we opened it up to people aged 65 and over. They didn’t have to register ahead of time and just came. We administered about 3,000 doses in total.

The health workers and students I’ve vaccinated were fine, but the general public, which is mostly the 65-pluses, was very excited. They…