Saturday, December 2, 2023

What’s the deal with the COVID-19 vaccination process? A few locals share their experience

Sarah Bottiglieri, pre-school teacher at Laurel Lane Elementary School receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)
Sarah Bottiglieri, pre-school teacher at Laurel Lane Elementary School receives a dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the City of Williamsburg)

What is it like getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the Historic Triangle? Well for some, it’s easier said than done.

For others, complete luck.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the state is receiving weekly shipments of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and is using those doses to vaccinate people in Phases 1a and 1b.

The Peninsula Health District opened up three clinics to serve certain localities along the peninsula. According to their website, the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center is meant to serve James City County and the City of Williamsburg, while York County residents are being served at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.

Currently, only those in Phase 1a and 1b are eligible to receive the vaccine. To see which category you are in, click here to take this survey.

Shipments will increase in the coming months, but by how much is still unknown.

According to the City of Williamsburg’s COVID-19 data dashboard, as of Wednesday, 57 city residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 4,725 residents from York County and 12,446 residents from James City County have also received at least one dose.

So what is it like getting vaccinated here and more importantly, how are people getting an appointment?

Scott Brubaker, neurological program director and co-owner of Apex Physical Therapy and Movement Center received his first dose on Jan. 6.

He received his second dose Wednesday morning.

“Being a small business owner, I was very proactive back in December and early January in contacting the health department,” he said.

He and the other two staff members at Apex blocked off time in their schedule to drive down to the VDH’s Newport News office to receive their vaccines.

When Brubaker was receiving his first dose, he said the clinic had only been administering vaccines for a few days, with staff using paper and pens to collect information from patients. But on Wednesday, the organization of the clinic was completely different. He said there was new signage directing people where to go and staff were equipped with tablets for a faster check-in.

After getting both doses, Brubaker reported no symptoms except a sore arm afterwards.

“I want to be an advocate for the vaccine,” he said, adding he chose to get vaccinated for his family and community. “It made sense to get it.”

Meanwhile, some received a vaccine appointment by random chance.

Josephine Krantz, a Williamsburg resident, who falls into the Phase 1b category because of her age, said her husband, Ken, received a text message from The Prescription Shoppe on Jan. 22.

“We thought it must have been a scam because it was in all caps,” she said, adding her husband had only been to the pharmacy once before to get a flu vaccine.

But the next day, after seeing an article about The Prescription Shoppe administering doses of the vaccine, the couple realized it wasn’t a scam.

The following Monday, Jan. 25 at 8:30 a.m., they each sent their name and date of birth to the phone number that had been in the text message. Krantz said they did not receive any confirmation text at the time.

Instead, she received a call later that morning asking if she could come in at 12:45 p.m. to get the shot. Both she and her husband were able to get doses that day. Krantz added she thought the process was very smooth and quick.

“They told us they got about 2,000 calls and messages about getting vaccinated,” Krantz said in a phone interview. “I think we got some of the last few doses.”

A timeline from the Virginia Department of Health shows a rough plan to allocate and administer the COVID-19 vaccine. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health)
A timeline from the Virginia Department of Health shows a rough plan to allocate and administer the COVID-19 vaccine. (WYDaily/Courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health)

But getting a vaccine dose isn’t all dependent on luck.

Karen Molloy, a first grade teacher at Magruder Elementary School in York County, was among one of the first groups of teachers scheduled to receive their initial dose of the Moderna vaccine at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center on Jan. 29.

RELATED STORY: Vaccinations move to Phase 1b in the Historic Triangle. Here’s what localities are doing to help

“It was incredibly well organized,” she said. “I overheard a fellow staff member saying there was a mishap earlier or something, but when I went later that day, everything was incredibly smooth.”

Molloy said there were signs directing people where to park their cars and directions to stay in their vehicle until five minutes before their appointment. After a nurse gave Molloy the vaccine, she said there was a sitting area where people waited 15 minutes after administration to see if they had a possible reaction.

Aside from a sore arm for a few days, Molloy said she had no other symptoms.

“I definitely would recommend getting the vaccine, but only based on one’s own health,” she said. “I got it to protect myself because I work with younger kids — and they could potentially carry the virus — but also to protect others.”

Michele Mahaffey, an attendance associate at Jamestown High School in Williamsburg, is part of a few, fortunate education staff members to get their vaccines ahead of schedule.

Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools staff were scheduled to get vaccines on Monday. Mahaffey went around 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31 after receiving a call, text, and an email saying the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center had a few extra vaccines.

“I had a sore arm for a few days and some fatigue, but that was it,” she said.

Juliet Chamberlain is a resident of Toano, but she got her vaccine dose at the Hampton Roads Convention Center since both she and her husband, James, are patients of Sentara Family Care.

Chamberlain received her first dose Jan. 30 after receiving an email that both she and her husband were eligible. She said she made an appointment right away.

“I’m a registered nurse, and I think it would be foolish to not get vaccinated,” she said. “Why would you risk your lungs over anything else?”

The VDH also states that healthcare personnel who cannot access the vaccine through their employer should contact their local health department. Essential workers may be most likely to receive the vaccine through employer-based vaccination clinics. Click here to see a list of frequently asked questions about the vaccine process on the health department’s website.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website here.


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