The process was different than what I might have experienced in Powhatan, but I was still OK with the outcome.
I have been visiting the vaccine clinics organized by Powhatan County for the last few months and still can’t say enough about how well they were run by Curt Nellis, Emergency Services Solutions Inc., and the volunteers who helped keep them going.
But, alas, those clinics were already winding down when I got word that I had been approved to receive a vaccine, so I instead scheduled one on March 27 at Virginia State University in Petersburg.
The following account is my personal experience getting the first round of the Pfizer vaccine. It is not necessarily indicative of what everyone who chooses to be vaccinated will encounter, but I hoped it might be helpful to those who don’t know what to expect.
My appointment was at 12:45 p.m., but I arrived at 12:30 p.m. expecting a line at the Multi-purpose Center, where the vaccines were being administered. I was not wrong. I would estimate 60 to 75 people were in front of me in the outside section of the line when I arrived.
Almost immediately, an officer directing people where to go made sure we were social distancing and informed those of us at the back that the line was moving at a good pace but some of the workers were cycling through their lunches, which was perfectly understandable.
Having seen a Facebook post from a friend who had gotten her vaccine at VSU not long before, I recognized that I might have to wait in line and came appropriately prepared. I had an e-book primed, a podcast downloaded, and even a movie ready on my phone. In the end, I simply went with music so I wouldn’t mind being interrupted if I had to take my earphones out for instructions or to ask a question.
If you had to stand in line outside, this was a good day for it. The temperature was in the low 60s, the sun was shining, and a delightful breeze rolled through regularly.
At about 12:55 p.m., the earphones came out because I noticed a man about 20 feet in front of me in line had apparently collapsed. Medics and officers rushed to help and those in line backed up to give them space.
At first, we all stayed where we were, but, after a few minutes, another officer began directing people in line to move forward while giving the patient a wide berth. The man was taken inside in a wheelchair and about 20 minutes later he was wheeled out on a gurney. I noticed that he was clutching in his hands what appeared to be a vaccine card, which I mention because the image brought home to me again how much peace of mind getting the vaccine gives to so many people.
A staff worker also made an announcement that those incapable of waiting in line should ask for assistance. They had golf carts and wheelchairs helping move people around, so, if you go to a clinic and need assistance, be sure to ask for it. Designated workers were disinfecting the equipment between uses.
At 1:13 p.m., I made it to the front door and the earphones came out for the duration of this venture. A security guard checked my name on the list to make sure I had an appointment and a woman then took my temperature. Then I was inside – and still in line.
A few zigzagging lines in the lobby and down a hallway took us into the arena and another line. To break up the monotony I paid attention to the yellow social distance stickers on the floor and felt like I was participating in an elaborate cake walk, only the prize for winning was a shot in the arm instead of a beautiful chocolate cake.
The arena was divided and separated by tall temporary walls. On one side, a long row of registration tables were lined up with plexiglass partitions dividing them. After each person was finished registering, designated workers came by with spray bottles to disinfect the chairs and tables.
At exactly 1:30 p.m., I was called to my table, where an extremely genial woman named Stacey greeted me and completed my final registration steps. Her daughter, Naee, who was registering another person next to me, also was super-friendly as she listened to our conversation and joined in a little as I asked how their busy days were going.
After answering questions generally aimed at trying to determine if I was likely to have an adverse reaction to the vaccine, I was directed to go around the partition to the large section where people were getting their shots and then waiting the requisite 15 minutes to see if there were any immediate reactions.
I received my shot at 1:40 p.m. There was a slight prick in my right arm and a sting that lingered for about 30 seconds, but I have had stubbed toes that were more painful than getting that shot. I went with my dominant arm, reasoning if there was soreness, having it in the arm I use the most might work it out a little more quickly.
And that was it. If that simple explanation seems anticlimactic after having read so much about standing in line, you know how I felt. The entire point of this journey – getting the vaccine – is actually the least remarkable part of the process.
Checking emails and Facebook made the 15-minute wait to watch for severe adverse reactions fly by, and, at 1:56 p.m., I was walking out the front door.
Two days of a slightly sore arm and some definite fatigue later, I was feeling fortunate that I was one of the people that didn’t experience adverse reactions and wondering when the notification would come about my second shot.
Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.