Cheryl Sparks gave herself plenty of time Thursday morning to take her mother-in-law, Wanda Sparks, age 86, to the county’s first public COVID-19 vaccination clinic.
She pulled into the parking lot at 9:25 a.m. for the clinic scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at Riverside Park, organized by the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments.
As Sparks drove up, a volunteer with Thrive Allen County directed her where to go and placed a blue sheet of paper on her vehicle’s windshield. The Sparkses would wait in their vehicle until another volunteer came to guide them forward, the order determined by the colored pieces of paper.
Nearby, another volunteer helped an elderly woman into a wheelchair.
As she settled into the seat, he said, “All right, now let’s talk. Do you have your keys? Do you want to lock your car? Do you need your purse?”
At 9:40, the Sparkses were guided into the Community Building, where they met with volunteers to check in.
When it came time for Wanda to get her shot, she told the nurse “I didn’t even feel it,” and thanked her.
They scheduled an appointment for Wanda’s second dose, then waited the required 15 minutes to see if she had any adverse reaction to the vaccine. She didn’t.
They left the clinic at 10:12.
“We got there early because I thought we’d be waiting to park, but it all moved very quickly,” Cheryl Sparks said.
“I was very impressed by the way it was organized and how quickly things moved along. There were a lot of helpers, and no questions about what we should do next. I don’t think they could have done a better job.”
THE CLINIC administered 300 doses of the Moderna vaccine, mostly to Allen County residents aged 85 and older.
Volunteers also received a vaccine dose, if they hadn’t already been immunized.
At about 10:18 a.m., as the flow of patients eased, the SEKMCHD sent out a call for those age 75 and older.
The clinic ended early, at 1:31 p.m., when the vaccine ran out.
Additional clinics will be offered in the coming weeks as more vaccine doses are available.
In fact, another clinic is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. next Thursday, Feb. 25, also at the Riverside Park Community Building. The clinic will be targeted to those age 75 and older, which includes anyone in that age group who was unable to attend the first clinic.
The clinic is dependent on vaccine arrival. The recent winter storm has delayed some vaccine shipments across the nation.
THE COUNTY’S first clinic went exceptionally well, said Susan Belt, regional preparedness coordinator with the SEKMCHD.
“People seemed very happy. I think they were impressed with how efficient the operation was. People came expecting to wait two or three hours, but we moved through rather quickly,” Belt said. “I don’t think anyone had to wait in their car more than 15 minutes, and I don’t think anyone had to wait in line once they were in the building.”
Belt gathered about 25 volunteers at 8:30 a.m. to train for the clinic. They got a practice run through the procedures as volunteers received their COVID vaccine shots before the elderly patients arrived.
“It gives everybody a chance to get their feet wet and ask questions without patients,” Belt explained.
Organizers also benefited from their previous clinics in Bourbon and Anderson counties and could make needed adjustments for Thursday’s.
Future clinics will be even better organized, Belt assured the volunteers during the training. She urged them to come back at next week’s clinic, and most agreed to return.
“The volunteers did a great job and we want to thank them for every effort,” Belt said.
David and Janet Sager of rural Moran were among those who volunteered to work at the clinic. Both are retired, and both have been infected with COVID-19, though their symptoms were mild. They also have lost extended family members to the disease.
All of that prompted them to volunteer to help others get immunized.
“It seemed like a good thing to do and a way to give back to the community,” Janet Sager said. “And we would hate for anyone to go through what we went through, losing a family member.”
Another volunteer, Annette Cole, said she has offered to volunteer every chance she gets since she retired.
“When you’re working, you don’t have time to do much else,” she said. “Now I do all I can to help the community, and this is something that is very beneficial.”
FOR THE next clinic, it’s important to download and complete consent forms ahead of time. That speeds up the registration process, Belt said.
Forms can be downloaded at sekmchd.com, or picked up at the Allen County Health Department, Iola Recreation Department, G&W Foods and Iola Public Library.
Thrive volunteers again will provide free transportation to those who need it. At this week’s clinic, the organization provided eight rides. Call 620-365-8128 to make arrangements.