At the front of the gym there is a man dressed in blue jeans and dark blue button down shirt. He has pierced ears and piercing blue eyes, tattoos, a silver bracelet and wears a big silver ring on his left middle finger.
Approaching this man is necessary for everyone in his line because he is administering vaccines—that is the sole reason he is there, and no one gets to choose which line they are placed in. He looks perhaps a little unapproachable from afar.
The wind blew hard all day in the East Mountains. At the Moriarty High School gym, the long lines moved quickly. A steady stream of people found relief from the wind as they approached the building or got inside.
Bundled against the cold, half of their faces covered by masks, people prepared to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
As the lines to get the shot sinuously continue forward, more and more people have smiles on their faces, despite some nervousness in the room. The sound of kids and adults laughing is audible as the man banters with the people he is vaccinating as he delivers the shots, as well as those standing in line.
The man, who goes only by “K.B.,” is one of many volunteers administering Covid vaccinations—and he does it with an undeniable flair, and a little bit of the Hokey Pokey.
At the front of the room, in the middle of a group of volunteers all administering vaccinations, he is there dancing, unabashedly, like a man who is alone in his living room blasting loud music. His silly dance style is coupled with dad jokes, smiles and encouragement as he quickly and efficiently delivers the shots.
K.B. lives outside Moriarty, and said he is working in Torrance County because he was interested in supporting the rural outreach of the state’s Covid vaccination efforts.
According to K.B., the Medical Reserve Corp., working through the state health department, called for volunteers to help streamline the vaccination process.
He said that the people working in the MRC are all EMTs at different levels of experience. He said he was contacted as a result of this process, and his involvement with MRC.
More nervousness fills the air for various reasons, like being afraid of shots, being nervous about being out in the world after a year of quarantine, being elderly, being young, being immuno-compromised or a plethora of other things, K.B. says. The line shuffles forward.
While at first glance he seemed unapproachable, K.B.’s energy is contagious, and before they know it, people getting shots are laughing along with him, with smiles on once-tense faces. To quote the Hokey Pokey and K.B., “That’s what it’s all about,” alleviating fear and making the experience an enjoyable one.
Children cannot be vaccinated yet, but can’t be left alone at home. Their presence is noticed by K.B. and other volunteers, who talk directly to them, offering stickers, letting them choose bandaids, explaining how vaccines work, reassuring them that their loved ones are not being harmed, and making them smile.
He does more than administer shots, tell lame jokes and silly dancing; he has a command of reading the room. In contrast to his silly demeanor, when a serious person approached, the type of person whose eyes say, “this is not a joking matter,” K.B. immediately switches into business mode, becoming serious and solemn.
According to national data, New Mexico is leading the nation in both how many vaccines being administered daily and the expediency of the process, and the state’s use of technology has automated the entire process.
People can register online quickly and the system is user friendly. All notifications for appointments and locations of the vaccination sites are sent out electronically in the form of emails and text messages.
Vaccinated people across the state have reported that lines move smoothly and quickly, with teams working together to avoid confusion.
Does he encourage people to “do the Hokey Pokey and turn themselves about?” Yes. K.B. also brings a lifetime of experience to the table as a critical care paramedic and firefighter. He started working as an EMT in the 1970s as a firefighter. As the years went by, he continued to train in various levels of first response, including being a paramedic in Australia, retiring from that work in 2018.
He also works as a medical investigator with the state Office of Medical Investigators, including in Torrance County. He has a bachelor’s degree in EMS Paramedicine, with a double focus on Research and Education. He started his education at the University of New Mexico and graduated from the Charles Sturt University in Australia.
He later owned the second-largest training company in Australia, training people around the world in subjects from first aid to high-level first responder EMTs of various kinds, and still writes training curricula.
“I think it’s important to be full of joy. These people are scared,” K.B. said. He said making it the best experience possible promotes positivity, adding, “That’s what it’s all about.”