Western Mass. Medical Reserve Corp 7

Michael Nancollas, a recently retired hand surgeon, vaccinates Ed Maloy, of Pittsfield, against COVID-19, during a clinic at Berkshire Community College. Before starting his work with the Medical Reserve Corps, Nancollas was far more used to giving cortisone injections than vaccine shots.  

When times are tough, Berkshire County rolls up its sleeves and gets to work — neighbor helping neighbor.

As our nation takes on the herculean task of vaccinating a population of 330 million people against a deadly viral pandemic, there have been hiccups: a poorly organized federal plan inherited from the outgoing Trump administration; the supply-side strain of quickly manufacturing millions of doses; rocky rollouts that have plagued some states, including Massachusetts.

Yet amid the confusion and anxiety, Berkshire volunteers and the vaccine clinics they’re helping to smoothly operate have been a dependable lifeline for the region’s residents who are ready to get the jab. The vital work of health care workers and first responders at Berkshire County vaccine clinics has been bolstered by a cavalcade of community members who aren’t collecting a paycheck but are still showing up on the front lines to help protect their most vulnerable neighbors.

Their ranks comprise Berkshirites of all walks, from surgeons, hospital workers, nursing students and veterinarians to those outside the medical field like volunteer firefighters, custodians, local officials and many others, including the Western Massachusetts Medical Reserve Corps, a regional branch of a national organization with a roster of nearly 200 active members in Berkshire County.

“The clinics would not function without our volunteers,” Berkshire Public Health Alliance Lead Nurse Leslie Drager told The Eagle. “They stand in the cold and greet people. They help them maneuver through the clinic. They really will do anything.”

As a result, Berkshire County’s vaccination rate — upward of 600 to 700 people a day per vaccination site — has impressed lawmakers and other observers. These tireless efforts certainly have not gone unnoticed by those who have received their shot. Letters from all corners of Berkshire County have poured in to The Eagle expressing gratitude for those who have made vaccine appointments not just possible but accommodating to so many.

“You made what could have been a stressful event for us the equivalent of a walk in the park,” a Williamstown resident wrote about attending a North Adams vaccine clinic.

“I wish to compliment the organizers and workers at the COVID vaccine clinic at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School,” a New Marlborough resident wrote. “They were very efficient and courteous.”

“Sincere thanks to everyone involved at BCC,” a Lenox resident wrote. “One more example of the benefits of living in the Berkshires.”

We couldn’t agree more. Time and again the Berkshire community has shown that when the going gets tough the tough get going to help those in need. Even a global pandemic and a year like 2020 can’t stop that.

Leaders of the regional vaccine effort say that registrations for two new clinics will be available starting this week. As Berkshire County continues its part in the national battle on the coronavirus, we are deeply grateful for those who so willingly give their time and energy to the fight.

And for those who haven’t volunteered at a local clinic, please consider it — you’d be in good company.