State College nonprofit’s vaccination efforts led by ‘local hero’ motivated by impact on community

Centre Volunteers in Medicine’s bootstrapped effort to vaccinate thousands of Centre County residents against the coronavirus is spearheaded by a woman who has poured in at least 50 hours per week for months.

Clinical Services Director Kristi Mattzela is the nonprofit’s COVID-19 vaccine coordinator, a wide-ranging job that includes everything from placing orders to scheduling clinics.

The nationwide plan for distribution of the vaccines — which has been overseen by two presidential administrations and is different in all 50 states — has been fragmented.

But colleagues and some county residents have been quick to praise CVIM. Geisinger primary care physician and volunteer Kristen Frank-Dixon described Mattzela as “one of the most passionate, driven people” she’s met.

“I firmly believe it’s only happening because she personally has taken this upon herself to make sure that as many people get vaccinated as possible. I find it amazing,” Frank-Dixon said. “… She’s really driven to make this happen. I think she recognizes this is a tragedy in our country and sees the desperation of some people who so badly want help and want to have access to the vaccine. I see her as a local hero who is making this happen.”

Judith Vicary-Swisher and Karen Kuhn received four of the more than 5,000 doses administered by the health resource center. In separate interviews, both said they were “dumbfounded” by how smooth the process was.

They also expressed optimism when thinking about how the vaccine would change their lives.

For Vicary-Swisher, a resident of The Village at Penn State, that means getting to see her grandchildren for the first time in months.

For Kuhn, a Patton Township resident with underlying medical conditions that place her at high risk of serious illness, that means being less fearful of contracting the disease from her 80-year-old husband who still works full-time. It also means she’ll be able to meet her 1-year-old great-grandchild for the first time…

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