Denise Lynch looked away as a woman in a white lab coat pricked her right arm with a needle, inoculating her against COVID-19.
“I didn’t feel anything,” said Lynch, who is 65 and lives in the Highland Park Senior Apartments in North Richmond, after getting the vaccine Saturday. “I feel good.”
The full effect of her smile was hidden beneath her navy blue mask, but it was there, in the creases around her eyes.
As Lynch sat, waiting 15 minutes after the vaccination to make sure she had no immediate adverse side effects, she told reporters about the process of getting vaccinating, including why she made the decision to get the shot.
“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” she said, adding that she did have reservations about the vaccine at first.
A cousin died of COVID-19 complications in December, she said. Lynch said the woman, who lived in Georgia, was just 62, three years younger than Lynch. She had been in the hospital for 96 days with a very severe case and had to be put on a ventilator. The family thought she had recovered when she was released from the hospital, then she died, Lynch said.
“That helped me make up my mind,” she said.
Enterprise Community Development, an African American-led nonprofit affordable housing provider that manages Highland Park and one other Richmond senior living facility, The Rosa apartments, hosted vaccine clinics at each location on Saturday. About 80 residents were given a shot — most, like Lynch, received their second dose, but some got their first. More clinics are planned, said Nii Sowah, vice president of Enterprise’s Community Impact Strategies.
“To be able to actually bring services to our residents is awesome,” Sowah said. “We’ve made a commitment to our residents to bring the resources to their home, which is not just a roof.”
Sowah said the nonprofit did a lot of education and outreach with its residents to ensure they understood the dangers of the virus and the precautions to prevent it, as well as the importance of getting vaccinated. But they also set up programs to ward off issues of isolation and loneliness among residents, who are among the most vulnerable populations.
Lynch said she appreciated the convenience of the vaccine clinic in the building where she lives.
“All I had to do was go downstairs,” she said.
Lynch said she had some redness and swelling after her first dose, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are typical symptoms along with tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. But her upper left arm, where she received the first shot, was so swollen and red that Lynch visited an urgent care provider that gave her an antibiotic and told her to take an antihistamine like Benadryl.
She couldn’t conclusively say whether the reaction was from the vaccine, as it occurred almost a week after her first dose. But she didn’t hesitate to get the second dose on Saturday, offering her right arm freely. Her doctor recommended getting the second shot in the opposite arm so if she had another reaction, they’d know it was from the recent dose.
As a mother and grandmother, Lynch said she’s eager to get back to visiting family. That, and “going to the malls” and attending church in person, is what she’s looking forward to most post-vaccine.
“It’s a good feeling,” she said. “I believe I would be OK. I believe I am OK.”