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Clinic draws countians for COVID-19 vaccine

Calvary Baptist Church hosted Helen Keller Hospital, in partnership with Russellville Hospital and Red Bay Hospital, Wednesday and Thursday for a two-day COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

The clinic had 1,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine set aside for residents in Franklin County.

“The health department noticed there were not as many residents in Franklin County that were receiving the vaccine or that had access to it, so it was decided that a vaccine clinic would be a great way to help out the area,” said Helen Keller Hospital Foundation Director Pam Fleming.

Fleming said the clinic turned out lower than anticipated results. The clinic administered 332 vaccines doses Wednesday and 346 Thursday. 

“It was a lot lower of a number than we expected, but we are still doing everything we can to get the word out,” Fleming said.

Fleming said since Helen Keller Hospital first applied to host the vaccine clinic, the number of vaccines available have increased in Franklin and surrounding counties.

Fleming said the clinic also saw lower-than-anticipated numbers because of how last-minute it was.

“We found out seven days beforehand that we were going to be holding the clinic,” Fleming said.

Helen Keller Hospital marketing coordinator Hunter Nicholson said the hospitals did everything they could to advertise the vaccine clinic, but they knew the quick turnaround would limit the response.

“We knew it was a long shot getting the word out to that many people that fast,” Nicholson said. “We have had a lot of people come in this morning saying they saw something in the paper or heard something on the radio, so we are glad we are able to get in the people we did.”

Residents signed up for appointments online to receive the vaccine. Once they arrived, they filled out paperwork on their health and waited to receive their vaccine.

Once they received the vaccine, they were told to sit in a waiting area for observation for 15 minutes in case of an allergic reaction.

Vaccine recipient Eddie Mann said he made the decision to get the vaccine after consulting with his doctor and family.

“My doctor told me it would probably be a good idea for me to get it,” Mann said. “My wife got it, and everything was fine with her, so I decided to get it as well.”

Vaccine recipient Stan Chappell said he weighed the pros and cons of receiving the vaccine but finally decided in favor of it.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t know which is the best route because it’s unproven,” Chappell said. “My take on it is if our parents hadn’t dove in back when they came out with the vaccine for polio, how many of us would be dead or maimed from polio, if our parents chose not to do it?

“We just have to have the trust.” 

Fleming said it was great to see the different hospitals in this region come together to make the vaccine clinic happen.

“The pandemic really did bring all of the different communities together,” Fleming said.

Red Bay Hospital Administrator Sherry Jolley said the three hospitals do not usually have much of a chance to work together, so it was great seeing the collaboration that made the vaccine clinic happen.

“I feel like this has been almost like a symbol of what the last year has been, everyone coming together to work toward a common cause,” Jolley said. “We have all come together to do what we need to do for the community, and that is encouraging.”

Jolley said the goal is to get as many people vaccinated as possible – and as quickly as possible.

“Vaccine clinics really do make all the difference in making this happen, so we are really grateful to have them,” Jolley said.

Jolley said she has heard people express uncertainty about getting the vaccine, but she recommends everyone talk to someone who has seen the virus and the devastation it can have.

“The thing is, people talk about the vaccine and how it has not been looked at long term, so we aren’t for sure what it will do,” Jolley said. “The issue with that is, we are not sure about the long-term effects of the vaccine and what it does, but what we are sure about is the virus and what it can do.”

Fleming said the vaccines for this clinic were specifically designated for use in Franklin County, so there will be additional vaccine clinics in the future to help vaccinate. Details are not yet available.

Jolley said she is grateful to the vaccine and the hope it has provided after the past year.

“I think going for a year seeing what we were seeing, everyone was really starting to feel discouraged from the virus,” Jolley said. “The vaccine came at a great time and really was like a light at the end of the tunnel. We know it will probably be a long time before life goes back to the way it was before, but with the vaccine, we can at least see things beginning to come back together.”