Campbell County seniors breathed a collective sigh of relief today – or at least 500 seniors did.
Today the long-anticipated clinic for local seniors to receive the first of two shots of the COVID-19 vaccination was held at the Campbell County Senior Center. A joint project between the senior center and Campbell County Public Health, the clinic vaccinated approximately 500 local seniors with the Moderna vaccine.
Shots were administered to seniors 70 years old or older.
For local resident Nello Williams, who spent his career in education and ran the Campbell County School District Planetarium until his retirement, the day was surreal. Williams was happy to have received the vaccine but thought of the 400,000 who have already died from the disease in the U.S., saying “I don’t have to worry about that,” and, “I’m blessed that today is the day.”
Williams also shared his own experience with the polio epidemic, which he was fortunate never to have gotten, but which impacted his father and cousins and stated, “Dr. Salk created the [polio] vaccine and boy you couldn’t get the vaccine quick enough,” saying I relate this to that.
According to public health over 300 senior citizens had reached out to the office in advance of the clinic to get on a list for shots when vaccine was made available. Public health staff called those seniors who had signed up to let them know about the clinic today.
Senior Center Director Ann Rossi noted that the organization spent a lot of time consulting with public health about how best to vaccinate the large number of seniors in need of the vaccine.
Some have criticized the two organizations for holding a shot clinic, as opposed to a drive-through clinic or something at CAM-PLEX, but Rossi and public health nurse Kelly Hubbard, who was in charge of public health’s onsite administration today, explained the decision.
Hubbard noted that, in an abundance of caution, public health is asking all those who receive the vaccine to wait 15 minutes before leaving to make sure they do not have an allergic reaction. To date, Hubbard said that public health has had no recipient have an allergic reaction to the vaccine in Campbell County.
A drive-through clinic makes that 15 minutes of oversight difficult.
Additionally, Hubbard noted that a number of the senior center’s clients do not drive and when the two organizations considered CAM-PLEX, the concern was controlling access because of the large number of doors and the associated difficulty of enforcing social distancing and masking. There were also concerns raised by some of the difficulty seniors may have had getting from the parking lot to the buildings at CAM-PLEX.
In contrast, the senior center is designed for seniors. The organization also ran its senior transportation services to bring those who were unable to drive or didn’t have help to the senior center to receive their vaccination.
Rossi said, “Seniors are our business. We understand our 70-year-olds and older and the needs that they have.”
Today’s clinic was broken into two parts, with those who attended the senior center for lunch today receiving the vaccination first and then the larger number of seniors who waited in line working through the clinic next. Between the two groups the dining room of the senior center, where vaccinations were administered, underwent a complete cleaning with every table and chair being wiped down and disinfected. Green cards indicated which tables had been cleaned and were safe for seniors to sit. A crew of staff and volunteers continued cleaning the tables and chairs throughout the entire clinic.
Seniors were also socially distanced, and masks were “encouraged” for any who entered the building. Taped “X”s were on the floors indicating six feet of separation throughout the facility. Though originally scheduled for 1:00, the clinic for the larger senior public was started early and seniors and their caretakers were allowed in the senior center far in advance of the 1:00 time. A small number of seniors had already gotten in line by 11:30 a.m. and the line continued to grow until the group began moving through the clinic, after which the line and wait time shortened.
Not all were pleased with today’s clinic, including some who were frustrated by the lines to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. However, the seniors interviewed were more relieved and much of the frustration seemed to come from their children and caregivers who had brought them to the senior center for today’s clinic.
According to CCPH Director Jane Glazer, the organization will be holding additional clinics for seniors in the coming weeks.
Those interested should reach out to CCPH at (307) 682-7275 or the Campbell County Senior Center at (307) 686-0804.