The first doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered Monday afternoon at the Johnson County Healthcare Center to noticeable excitement among staff.
Johnson County Healthcare CEO Sean McCallister called the vaccinations a “milestone” and “turning point” in the fight against COVID-19 and county health officer Dr. Mark Schueler called it “the most important day since this began.”
The vaccine was administered to a variety of direct caregivers at the healthcare center, including Amie Holt Care Center staff, evaluation clinic staff and other providers. Brenda Gorm, director of the care center, was the first to receive the vaccination.
“Getting it was a decision I’m very comfortable with personally and professionally,” she said. “But I think everybody needs to have that comfort level, so there may be some that wish to wait a little bit and I think that’s OK. But if it means that it’ll be more freedom ultimately for the (care center) residents, that’s a really good thing.”
Chelsea Puente, a Johnson County Healthcare Center physician’s assistant working in the evaluation clinic, also received her first dose of the vaccine Monday, which she said will help protect her when she’s working with COVID-positive patients, as well as help the community.
“It feels like this is going to help slow the community spread,” she said. “The more people that get the vaccine in the community, the better.”
The doses given in the county Monday come from Moderna, and were received by the Johnson County Healthcare Center and Johnson County Public Health on Dec. 23. McCallister said the county has 300 doses of the vaccine on hand and is expecting another 100 this week.
The Moderna vaccine is the second coronavirus vaccine given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, after clinical trials showed it to be 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The healthcare center is still awaiting vaccines for Amie Holt Care Center residents, McCallister said. Those vaccines will be administered by Walgreens through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program, a federal initiative to vaccinate vulnerable populations while reducing time and costs for long-term care facilities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, the Veterans’ Home of Wyoming, which is still dealing with an outbreak, is also utilizing Walgreens and the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care Program to administer vaccines to residents. Schueler said those vaccines are expected to arrive in the next one to two weeks.
While staff of the healthcare center and care center were the first to receive the vaccine in the county, others who reside in Buffalo, like endodontist Ted Stowe, had already received his Pfizer-BioNTech shot in neighboring Gillette.
Stowe said because his profession is considered at risk, he was able to receive the shot in Gillette. He said the process was easy and efficient and the shot left him with a slightly sore arm at the injection site for a day.
“I take that as a good development,” he said. “It means my immune system is doing something.”
According to the CDC, some side effects, like pain and swelling at the injection site, or chills and headache, are common after receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, but are “mostly mild to moderate.”
Stowe said he hopes his story of being vaccinated helps ease people’s nerves about the vaccine.
“The bottom line is, this whole thing doesn’t end until enough get sick or get vaccinated,” he said. “It seems like an easy choice.”
Schueler said he hopes the vaccine is available to the vulnerable general population soon, and that once Johnson County reaches a threshold of 60% to 70% of the community either having been vaccinated or having had the virus, things should begin to return to normal.
“It’s the most powerful weapon we have, I’d encourage everybody to use it,” Schueler said.