Jane Parayil knows how to roll with the punches.
As one of the people spearheading the Monadnock Region’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, the 27-year-old Michigan native has been responsible for setting up clinics, educating the public and informing officials on the area’s inoculation rates.
And having joined the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network’s staff just weeks before the vaccine was broadly approved last December, she said she’s needed to learn how to think on her feet.
“We definitely didn’t know what was coming our way,” the Keene resident said. “We knew that we’d be doing mass vaccination sites, but I didn’t know what that would entail, especially a few weeks into a new position and not even a month in a new area.”
After receiving her bachelor’s in speech, language and hearing sciences from Purdue University in Indiana, Parayil decided to switch gears to public health, leading her to get her master’s in the field from Wayne State University in Michigan.
Parayil explained most of her extended family works in the medical sector and that she always knew she wanted to do the same, but was struggling to find the best fit for her skills.
“I decided to go into public health because I felt that was more of my niche and what I was interested in,” she said.
In the spring of 2018 — in her final year of graduate school — Parayil secured a job with the Macomb County Health Department in Mount Clemens, Mich., as a public health preparedness specialist, where she stayed for about two years.
By November of 2020, she decided to leave the Midwest for the first time and move to New Hampshire to start her current role as the public health emergency preparedness coordinator with the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network and Cheshire Medical Center in Keene.
“I wanted to ... have more responsibilities and I also wanted to venture out and decided it was time for a change,” she said. “I wanted to get out there and get out of my comfort zone.”
And that she did.
Parayil’s work at the public health network — one of 13 statewide aimed at enhancing and improving public health-related services — has forced her to grow her leadership skills as she leads local vaccination efforts and stays up to date on all things COVID-19.
She is also the director of the network’s Medical Reserve Corps, which is a network of volunteers trained to help during disasters and public health crises.
Most of Parayil’s time, though, is filled with preparing for or running vaccine clinics for the public, schools and businesses. She said a lot of “logistical planning” goes into getting the clinics up and running, like securing enough volunteers, setting up the location and preparing the vaccine doses.
All of the clinics are manned by volunteers, she noted, and those who help include health care workers, retired physicians and other community members.
At the clinics, Parayil is often in charge, and jumps from volunteers to patients to make sure things run smoothly.
She now has all of this down to a science, but when the clinics first launched in December 2020, it was a lot of trial and error.
“Everything is very fluid ...,” Parayil said. “We adapted our training protocols, even on the site, because every day something would change with how we administered the vaccine.”
She admitted some days are harder than others, especially as vaccine hesitancy persists across the state and nation.
The network has worked to combat the anti-vaccination movement by trying to meet people where they are at as much as possible, such as by hosting a vaccine clinic at a local brewery, and through education efforts.
“Our pop up clinics [offer] the opportunities for conversations for those who are vaccine hesitant,” she said in a text. “We try to provide education and answer any questions those who are vaccine hesitant have.”
Support from her coworkers and family helps her get through the tougher days, she said, even though the latter are still in the Midwest.
Tricia Zahn, director of the Greater Monadnock Public Health Network, said Parayil has selflessly committed herself to the area’s well-being.
“To say Jane has jumped [in to] support the Monadnock Region with both feet would be an understatement ...,” she said in an email. “She is responsible for planning, implementing, evaluating, and adapting many facets of this ongoing public health emergency and she does it with kindness, grace, and collaboration.”
And despite the difficulties that come with the job — like not being able to be in two places at once — Parayil said seeing how happy people are when they get inoculated makes it all worth it.
“It doesn’t seem like a big deal,” she said, “but you see that joy when someone receives their vaccine.”