Fully vaccinated Berks senior living organization residents volunteer at COVID vaccine clinic | Coronavirus | #seniorliving | #elderly | #seniors
Residents of The Highlands of Wyomissing know how it feels to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. They now want to help the community experience those same feelings.
The continuing care retirement community and West Reading’s Esterbrook Pharmacy have partnered together to host community vaccination clinics at The Highlands for those currently eligible as part of the state’s Phase 1A group. The most recent two-day clinic started Monday and will continue Tuesday with the goal of vaccinating up to 1,300 community members with the Pfizer vaccine.
Including this week’s clinic, Kevin DeAcosta, president and CEO of The Highlands at Wyomissing, said they will be close to having administered 3,000 doses of vaccine through the clinics so far.
Residents give back
Running a smooth and efficient clinic, particularly with COVID safety precautions in place, requires many moving parts and a number of staff and volunteers. In addition to pharmacy and The Highlands staff members, community residents have volunteered their time to help with the clinics.
“Living here at The Highlands has been a gift, during this entire pandemic,” said Pat Gernert, 88. “The Highlands is a gift which fills us with gratitude because they kept us in a bubble of safety. It’s the gift they gave us to keep us safe and then when the vaccine became available it filled us with gratitude again.”
Gernert said the vaccine has given her more freedom as she feels safer going out again, such as going into the drug store or using the drive-thru at her bank. She now wants to give that same freedom to others.
“I’m volunteering now, it’s what you do, giving back,” she said. “There’s many ways to give back. You give back with your hands. You can give back with your checkbook. You can give back with your mind. It’s giving back, you live to give.”
Gernert volunteered at the second dose scheduling station during Monday’s clinic. There she helped attendees schedule their second dose appointments, set three weeks from now at The Highlands at the same time they received their first dose. At the table, she had the chance to speak with attendees while filling out their vaccine cards.
“This is wonderful and I’m meeting lovely people here,” she said. “People are so full of gratitude.”
Fellow resident Carol Duchynski, 78, was also at the second dose scheduling station. Duchynski has a history of volunteering and enjoys helping in whatever way she can with any project.
“I think this is a really worthy cause, and I’m very happy to do it,” she said. “It’s been very rewarding. People are so gracious and they’re very happy to have us doing this. I’m happy that people are coming, and they’re very glad to have us do this.”
After receiving their first dose and before scheduling their second dose appointments, attendees were required to sit for at least 15 minutes under observation in case of any adverse reactions to the vaccine. Chairs were set up in the multipurpose room, with social distancing in mind, and volunteers would clean chairs and direct attendees to an available seat. While they waited under observation, attendees could read handouts on their chair about what they may experience after receiving the vaccine, ask questions and listen to the music that was played.
Residents and physicians Tony Kleiner, 76, and Dan Kimball, 81, were two of the volunteers in this step of the process.
“Once a doctor, always a doctor, that’s the way that goes,” Kleiner said on why he decided to volunteer. “We all realize the best thing we can do to ensure life returning to normalcy is seeing as many people vaccinated as possibly can be. Any effort we can make to see that that occurs, we think is worth everybody’s interest, our own as well as everybody else’s.”
Kimball had a similar reason for volunteering.
“We are part of this community,” he said. “We saw it as a way of honoring our community, but also ensuring that more people get the vaccine. When you hear that a third or quarter of the population are thinking of turning it down, that’s pretty scary. With the effort here, we got essentially 100% of the people who were eligible to get the vaccine, we’d like to see that in the community as well.”
‘A well-oiled machine’
The pharmacy and The Highlands teams have worked to make the whole process as smooth and efficient as possible. From pulling into the parking lot to exiting after receiving the dose, being observed and scheduling the second dose appointment, attendees can be done and on their way in less than 30 minutes.
“It’s been great,” Kleiner said. “A lot of cooperation. The administration has this down pat. They ironed out all the wrinkles and it goes very smoothly. It’s like a well-oiled machine.”
The flow starts and ends outside the clinic. Before attendees even reach the parking lot, they check in with one of the security members or traffic volunteers. Once their name is checked off the registration list, the attendee is then directed to a parking spot. They then make their way through another checkpoint inside a tent and then into the multipurpose room.
Once inside the multipurpose room, they go through one more checkpoint with Eric Esterbrook, pharmacy owner. Esterbrook then directs the attendee to a sectioned off area to receive their shot and then they make their way to the observation area. When they have their second dose appointment card, they make their way back out and are directed out of the parking lot.
Greg Sell, 67, was a community volunteer, who helped direct traffic.
“Seeing the way this operates and seeing the flow and the efficient of this, it really kind of makes you feel like, wow, you really are making a difference,” he said. “You see this steady stream of folks coming in to get vaccinated. I think that’s a really good thing.”
With how well the clinics have worked so far, and depending on vaccine supply, DeAcosta said he hopes to continue partnering with Esterbrook Pharmacy and providing these clinics to the community.