It wasn't just a regular lineup as a special group of folks in Pauls Valley were gathering to receive some of the newly arrived COVID-19 vaccine this week.
A little bit of hope for maybe a return soon to normalcy is what the vaccine represented for dozens of clients at the Garvin County Community Living Center on Monday, Dec. 28.
Around 100 clients and a few Living Center staff received the vaccine shots administered by workers from the Garvin County Health Department.
“They are recognized as at-risk population,” said Chip Pearson about why the clients with developmental disabilities are among those in this first wave to receive the vaccine.
“I think it's important for people to know this is happening; that the vaccine has come here.”
Even more important is what this first round of vaccine shots could mean as the clients, like the general public, have been unable to come together for normal activities since the virus pandemic began.
“What this means is that we can slow down or even stop the spread of the virus in congregate living situations,” Pearson said as the vaccine was being administered in the Living Center's workshop area.
“This gives them the potential to resume a quality of life they haven't seen since March. It means they might be able to resume the actions they haven't done in some time.
“We haven't done any group gatherings since March. I believe this is the first one since then.”
None of the clients were forced to take the vaccine as Pearson says it was a voluntary thing for them with, in some cases, input from family members.
“It was up to the individual and the individual's families on if they would receive the vaccine. Staff that work with clients also had access to the vaccine,” he said.
Those getting a shot Monday are next set to receive a second round of the vaccine in about a month, while a second day is expected to be scheduled to “catch anyone who couldn't come” this week.
“We are really appreciative of all the people here and the local health department,” Pearson adds.
Mendy Spohn, director of the health department for the region that includes Garvin County, says the vaccine arrived about three weeks ago as the initial top priority was working with hospitals.
“We have been starting with the priority groups trying to set up special clinics for health care workers, first responders and long term care facilities,” Spohn said.
Julie Williamson, a public information officer, said the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is scheduled 21 days after the initial shot, while the second dose of Moderna is scheduled 28 days after the initial shot.
“The initial shipment of vaccines was sent out to all of the hospitals in our district and first priority went to those providing direct care to COVID-19 patients,” she said.
Additional hospital employees and EMTs who provide transportation for patients have also been included with the first phase.
According to Williamson, long-term care facilities with Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services contracts are receiving vaccines for their staff and residents through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.
She adds the health department is sending “strike teams” to vaccinate at the remaining nursing homes, assisted living centers and group homes for the developmentally disabled.
“Phase 2 includes a lot of Oklahomans. Our first vaccination events will target first responders and outpatient healthcare workers. After that, we will work through senior citizens, adults with comorbidities and teachers.”
One important tip for anyone who does receive the vaccine – continue with the safety practices encouraged throughout the ongoing pandemic.
“We do recommend that people continue taking precautions after receiving the vaccine. The efficacy rates are based on receiving both doses at the recommended spacing,” Williamson said.
“They have been shown to be very effective, but not 100 percent, so having the vaccine does not mean people should abandon the 3 W's – wearing a mask, watching their distance and washing hands.
“Taking precautions can also help protect the community from spreading the flu and other illnesses.”