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The last shot: This Friday, April 30 is your last chance (for awhile) to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at a local clinic

BUCKHANNON – Do not miss your ‘shot’ to get a COVID-19 vaccine at Upshur County’s final daylong large-scale clinic scheduled for this Friday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Event Center at Brushy Fork.

During this clinic, folks may walk in and are not required to have an appointment. However, anyone interested in getting vaccinated should bring a valid form of West Virginia identification, and those ages 16 and 17 wishing to have a vaccine must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Community partners praise sense of teamwork in ‘important endeavor’

Chief Operations Officer with Community Care of West Virginia Trish Collett said the clinics at the Event Center began on Feb. 5, 2021 and were initially just on Fridays, but they subsequently moved to Wednesdays and Fridays. Collett said the community partners who helped make the clinics a possibility include St. Joseph’s Hospital, CCWV, the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, the Rotary Club of Buckhannon-Upshur, the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce, Upshur County EMS and the Upshur County Commission.

Collett estimated that nearly 9,000 people have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine at the community partner clinics, and while most are Upshur County residents, not all are, with some people traveling from as far away as Charleston. As of Wednesday morning, Collett said 9,598 actual doses – meaning first and second shots combined – have been administered at the clinics.

Collett said the reason this is the last clinic scheduled for now is the number of people coming to and signing up for the clinics has dropped off recently.

“It takes 50 to 60 paid staff and volunteers to run these clinics, and we cannot maintain that for any a few people,” Collett said.

All in all, Collett said she believes the community partner clinics went well, and the entities involved will come together again when necessary – to administer boosters, for example.

“Our community partnership has been very strong, and it was great to work with all of the partners together in such an important endeavor,” Collett told My Buckhannon. “It shows West Virginians are strong and are able to come together in times of emergency and need. Moving forward, we will come back together as needed to administer any boosters that might be needed or if there are additional age groups added. We will do what is necessary.”

Lisa Wharton, vice president of marketing, public relations and Foundation at St. Joseph’s Hospital, has worked at each of the community partner clinics. She said this clinic is the last big push to get people out and get them vaccinated in an efficient manner.

“Everybody has worked so well together to pull these clinics off,” Wharton said. “Obviously, we would have loved to have vaccinated the entire county. Right now, we are at more than 9,500 people who have come out. We hope this Friday we will pass the 10,000 mark.”

Vaccines and variants

For anyone who is still on the fence about getting vaccinated, Wharton encouraged them to ‘take a shot.’

“The Pfizer, the Moderna and the J&J vaccines are extremely safe,” Wharton said. “They have run through all of the trials any vaccine goes through. I would really encourage folks to get out there and get their vaccine.”

In addition, Wharton emphasized that getting vaccinated now makes the spread of COVID-19 variants locally and throughout the state less likely later. Locally, Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department Nurse Director Sue McKisic notified the public that one case of the “California variant,” B.1.429, had been discovered in Upshur County on April 22.

“There are a number of variants out there that are in the state,” Wharton said. “I would encourage people to get out and get the vaccine.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that are administered at the clinics are mRNA, or Messenger RNA, vaccines, meaning there is no risk of contracting COVID-19 from the vaccine itself, according to information on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. While many vaccines insert an inactivated or “weakened” germ into people’s bodies to teach them to develop an effective immune response, mRNA vaccines work differently. According to the CDC, mRNA vaccines “teach our cells how to make a protein – or even just a piece of a protein – that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.”

“That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies,” the CDC’s website explains. “The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.”

Get in, get vaccinated, and get out

Because the clinics have run like clockwork, Wharton said time spent at the clinic will be relatively brief.

“Your biggest time is the 15 minutes you wait following the administration of the vaccine,” she said, referring to the time people are required to wait prior to leaving to ensure they don’t have an adverse allergic reaction.

Wharton said that, like Collett, she enjoyed working with the partner agencies.

“I want to emphasize how nice it was to work with all the other agencies and say how well we worked together,” she said. “There was a big sense of teamwork.”

Folks coming through the clinics all said, ‘thank you,’ to the workers and volunteers, she added, which was nice to hear.

“That was just very cool,” Wharton said.

People ages 65 and older vaccinated at higher rates locally

Medical officer for the Upshur-Health Department and longtime family physician Dr. Joseph Reed has tracked the percentage of people who have received flu shots in Upshur County for six to eight years. His data shows that consistently, only about 25 to 30 percent of residents receive flu shots, Reed told My Buckhannon Wednesday.

“My thought was, if we get that number 25 to 30 percent, we will be doing good and if we exceed that, it will be a plus,” Reed said. “That is about where we are at this point.”

Reed said one of the hopes attached to the large-scale vaccination clinics was that enough people would get vaccinated to reach ‘herd immunity.’

“If we get to 75 or 80 percent of the population vaccinated, we will have herd immunity,” Reed said. “The largest percentage of folks who received the vaccination in the clinics in Upshur County were those who are 65 years old and older. We are seeing younger people come in now, but it is not like the 65 and up crowd coming in to be vaccinated.”

Reed said hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, vaccines can be given to individuals who are 12 years old and up.

“I am afraid we may not do too well with that group,” Reed commented, saying he thinks that’s because early on, research indicated young people were less at risk.

However, Reed said he encouraged everyone to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“I encourage people to take the vaccine to protect themselves from possible serious problems and also to protect their friends and neighbors,” Reed said.

He talked about why people should still wear masks after they are fully vaccinated.

“There are more things out there along with COVID,” Reed said. “There is flu, and we think the reason we have had fewer instances of flu, colds and respiratory illnesses this year is because people were wearing masks. Also, we are not sure if people who have been immunized can still pass COVID on to others when they are asymptomatic.”

Reed said that as of Wednesday, there was still only one known case of a COVID-19 variant, and that the person who contracted it had been quarantined. He explained a variant is a mutation of the virus that makes it appear different from the original. When asked if he believes people will need a booster shot to keep from getting that variant of COVID, he said it’s too early to tell.

“I will not be surprised if we have to,” Reed said. “It is possible the vaccine we have now will not be good for some variants that develop. That may warrant the need for a slightly different vaccine, [and] I understand they are able to modify the vaccine for these variants on a rapid basis, which is good.”

How to get vaccinated if you can’t make Friday’s clinic

Reed said he wanted to thank Collett, Wharton and health department nurse director Sue McKisic – and said he hopes residents will consider their potential impact on others, even if they have hesitancy and reservations.

Folks who are not able to attend Friday’s final large-scale COVID vaccination clinic may obtain additional information about receiving a vaccine by contacting St. Joseph’s Hospital at 304-473-2000, Community Care of West Virginia at 304-473-5600 or the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department at 304-472-2810.

Currently Buckhannon Kroger, Buckhannon Walmart, Buckhannon CVS and Buckhannon Walgreens are offering appointments for COVID vaccines. Appointments may be made by calling Kroger at 304-472-0918; Walmart by calling 304-472-2589; Buckhannon CVS by calling 304-473-0151; or Buckhannon Walgreens by calling 304-472-0150.

You may also click here for a list of vaccination clinics throughout the state.

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