Health Department’s Clinic sees 177 receive Pfizer vaccine

Suzette Lowe

Laughter, shouts of recognition and excitement filled the Ripley High School cafeteria. It could have been mistaken for a family reunion or perhaps a long-awaited meeting of old high school friends.

Instead, it was the gathering of those aged 80 or above coming to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

The Jan. 7 event was the second vaccine clinic conducted by the Jackson County Health Department. The previous Monday saw 102 shots of the Moderna vaccine given, with 177 Pfizer dosages administered on Thursday.

The full immunization will be completed when the second shot is given. For Moderna, it is 28 days after the first shot, for Pfizer it is 21 days.

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Wendy Staats said many of those who came had not been out of their homes since March.

“They’ve heard the war stories about their vulnerability,” she said. “So they’ve been very careful, sometimes not having face-to-face visits with family or friends for months. To see the happiness on their faces makes me happy.”

Marlene Drake, 84, had the typical attitude of those taking advantage of the opportunity.

“I’ve not been so excited to get a shot before,” she said with a laugh. “I had no fear at all and I’m ready for this. I have a lot of family members in the medical field, so I have confidence. For me, it means a chance at freedom again.”

Staats said that when first learning the health department was getting the vaccine, she had a fear that not many would want it.

“My fears were totally unfounded,” she said. “We had so many calls asking to be put on the list. When I would call to see if they were ready for their shot, they were willing to drop everything, cancel any appointment to make themselves available.”

Full immunity doesn’t occur till 10-14 days after the second dosage. Staats cautions everyone that masks are still required even after that time.

“It’s the governor’s mandate,” she said. “You still need to be careful because everyone is not vaccinated.”

Staats also clarified the misconception of donating plasma after receiving the vaccine.

“Only people who have actually had COVID-19 can donate plasma,” she said. “Within a certain amount of time after having the disease, the antibodies are there. Just having the vaccine does not qualify you to donate.”

Even though the vaccine is on its initial rollout, there are still COVID-19 cases and more will arise.

Currently, there are 250 active cases in Jackson County, some with little or mild symptoms, some more severe.

Two of the three care centers in the county have an outbreak. Both Ravenswood Care Center and Ravenswood Village have active cases with residents and staff. All three facilities, including Eldercare, have had the first round of vaccinations given to those who opted to receive them. The second dose has not been administered yet.

Teachers in the county, age 50 or older, were given the option for the Moderna vaccinations on Thursday as well. These were organized by the state board of education and given by a Kroger pharmacy.

The health department, which has offered multiple COVID testing drive-throughs in the past, will focus on vaccination clinics for the foreseeable future.

Testing is offered at Fruth Pharmacy, Walgreens and the Jackson General Hospital clinics at Fruth and Walmart by appointment.

The proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” is what gives Carolyn Carmichael hope.

“I’m more than ready for this,” she said. “If it helps me, that’s wonderful, but if this will keep me from transmitting anything to someone else, that means everything.”

For the families of those getting the vaccinations, there is a great sense of relief.

Rick Perrine, pastor of Ripley Baptist Temple, brought his parents, Jackie and Osburn “Babe” Perrine, to get their shots.

“We know there’s no 100 percent guarantee, but this gives them and me a large degree of confidence,” he said. “They can get out a bit more and hopefully get back to church which they’ve really missed.”

Future clinics will be determined by the availability of the vaccine and any state guidelines. Anyone who is over 80 years of age can call the health department at 304-362-2634 to be placed on the waiting list.