Monongalia Health Department begins vaccinations for individuals that are 80 and older

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There are many ways to describe the task of vaccinating most of the general public, mostly along the lines of it being a challenging task, but the Monongalia County Health Department (MCHD) is not deterred.

In fact, on Monday, MCHD, in collaboration with the West Virginia National Guard, distributed roughly 100 doses of the first round of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to individuals 80 or older. At first, the idea was to administer them on a first-come, first serve basis, but Dr. Lee Smith, MCHD’s executive director, said they feared that scenario would be chaotic. Instead, a pre-registration period was opened so people could sign up.

“It was like giving out free tickets to a rock concert,” Smith said. “We were done in 45 minutes, with all 100 appointments.”

By midday of administering, Smith said, for the most part, people were filing in as they should, and there were no concerns.

Woman talks to MCHD nurse before vaccine is administered

“I’m very happy with the way things have turned out,” Smith said. “I know that we only had a hundred doses, and the appointments for those went pretty quickly. But the good news is we have a list of 150 people that we can go to, particularly if we get a no show today. We will be calling individuals, and we have a list for the next dose of Moderna that comes in.”

From what the state has told him, Smith said, he expects the next round of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to arrive within the week and to have 60 doses. Of course, that’s fewer than the 150-person waitlist, but Smith said he’s happy to get at least names checked off.

One person who took her first Moderna shot on Monday was Charlene Marshall, a former mayor of Morgantown.

Marshall said she’s been waiting and calling the health department to let them know she was ready to be vaccinated as soon as possible because the coronavirus is especially devastating to someone in her age group.

Two syringes with Moderna vaccine in them waiting to be administered

Marshall said she understands there are a lot of rumors and false reports about the COVID-19 vaccines. She wants the public to ignore the noise and go ahead and get vaccinated.

She said unless you think you are immune to the virus, you must absolutely get a shot, which is not bad.

“No different than any injection I’ve ever had,” Marshall said. “Hardly a sting and I’m supposed to wait 15 minutes, and my 15 minutes is almost up. I feel great, and I’m just glad. I can’t wait for the few weeks when I get that second one. I just feel like that’s my armor of protection, and that’s what I wanted to do.”

Mon EMS on standby on Monday

The 15 minutes Marshall referred to was the mandated minimum amount of time everyone receiving a vaccine on Monday had to wait. Smith said individuals who have had adverse reactions in the past following a vaccine were monitored for 30 minutes after their injection.

There were even staff from Monongalia EMS on standby to assist if needed.

Fortunately, no such issues arose. Smith said there are very specific reasons someone could have a severe reaction to the vaccine.

“The only reason not to get the vaccine is if you have a known allergy to the products that are made up in that,” Smith said. “Now, some people who, unfortunately, have to carry around an EpiPen and have a lot of allergies, they should probably consult their allergist as to what their level of risk is. But people who have seasonal allergies, or cat dander, or what have you, that is absolutely not a risk to taking either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.”

MCHD employee drawing vaccine out of a vial

Now that these vaccines have been administered, everyone will have to come back in 28 days to receive their second dose, also known as a booster shot. Smith said he is not concerned about having enough booster shots because once someone takes the first dose, they are automatically reserved a second. This applies to both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

This means things are finally starting to settle down on the vaccination front now that the holidays and initial confusion are over, Smith said.

“I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out and that as long as we get the supply in, I think we can get it out to the public, and so I’m pretty happy with that,” Smith said.

MCHD employee getting ready to see her next patient

MCHD’s executive director said he was thankful for his team, which is short-staffed but continuing to battle COVID-19 through contact tracing and other epidemiological methods. He also said he was appreciative of the West Virginia National Guard. Monday’s distribution was, in fact, held at a National Guard facility.

“This has been a great relationship, and we are extremely grateful to have them,” Smith said. I mean, look at this facility; this is just perfect for us. We’re out of the weather; it’s big enough that we can have the social distancing.”

Smith also said he was grateful for Mon Health, which helped supply wheelchairs to help with mobility.

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