nurse practitioner john aldrich alejandro, right, preparing for a vaccination clinic

Nurse practitioner John Aldrich Alejandro, right, getting ready for a vaccine clinic.

When the Orange County Healthcare Agency (OCHCA) reached out to nursing alum John Aldrich Alejandro (‘12) in January to lead the effort to vaccinate residents, the nurse practitioner was all in.

His task: to coordinate nurse practitioner staffing at vaccination clinics throughout the county. Mercy Pharmacy Group coordinated pharmacist staffing and vaccine supplies.

“There was a need for primary care providers to administer them early on, especially to hospital staff,” he recalls. Later, the effort expanded to the wider community.

Alejandro was able to reach a wide network of eager nurse practitioners in his role as president of the California Association for Nurse Practitioners (CANP) and board member of the UCI Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing Alumni Chapter.

One-third of the volunteers were UCI nursing alumni. All of the donors collectively donated hundreds of hours. Every site had between two to four nurse practitioners and vaccinated between 500-2,000 individuals.

Last week, the clinics reached a milestone: 10,000 people fully vaccinated.

“This was all out of the goodness of the nurse practitioners’ hearts, volunteering to make sure that our community is safe,” he says.

“Their passion for public health and service really shone through.”

‘Please get vaccinated’

Alejandro is now trying to connect with those who are hesitant to get the vaccine.

uc irvine school of nursing alumni and california nurse practitioners at orange county vaccination clinicHe does that by answering questions and uncovering the source of their reluctance, especially in his role in urgent care at Hoag.

“Usually, it’s misinformation or myths. That’s what we address,” he says.

“Sometimes they just haven’t gotten around to it. Without scaring them, I tell them the best time to get vaccinated was a month and a half ago, before this surge.”

Still, getting the vaccine late is better than not at all.

“If you’re not vaccinated, reach out to your primary care provider,” he urges. “We’re still in a pandemic, and we want you to be safe and healthy.”

A true team effort

Alejandro is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Mercy to serve the community.

“Working with Mercy has been tremendous. They are so caring and dedicated to their mission, which right now is to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

The nurse practitioners were exceptionally selfless, he says, because initially COVID fears kept volunteers away.

“It was rewarding to rally and mobilize my peers through the shared purpose of fighting COVID within our community.”