The long-awaited coronavirus vaccine arrived at a Napa retirement home on Sunday, and with it the hope of a return to safety and normality after 10 months of a historic pandemic.
More than 60 residents of Brookdale Napa on Villa Lane, together with some 50 employees, awaited their turns for the first of two injections of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and introduced in December. They thus became some of the first among more than 137,000 Napa County residents to receive protection against the virus that has infected 7,157 people locally, with 39 deaths as of Friday.
During a six-hour vaccination clinic inside Brookdale’s dining hall, the new safeguard was given to each man and woman in a process that took less than three minutes. Employees of CVS Health, the pharmacy chain inoculating residents at more than 40,000 long-term care centers nationwide, donned masks, visors and gloves as they injected first staff members, then Brookdale residents.
For Bob and Ann Crain, Chicago natives who moved to Brookdale nearly two years ago from a Napa mobile-home community, vaccination – of themselves and enough Americans for widespread protection – was the way back to once-prosaic pleasures made valuable after 10 months of stay-at-home orders and shutdowns.
“I’ve missed out on visiting our daughter (in Browns Valley) for dinner, said Bob Crain, a retired Illinois Bell engineer. “I’ve missed out on going to the Elks club – and we have a lot of friends at the Elks. … Getting back to visiting our relatives, going to the Elks – and maybe going out to a restaurant again.”
Another Brookdale resident, Dori Preston, saw her outside trips dry up only a few months after arriving at the home in October 2019. In addition to doing without restaurant trips and drives to American Canyon and around the county, “what really got to me was when we could no longer go to the grocery store or the pharmacy – thank God for Amazon,” said the 76-year-old Preston as she waited for her shot while the public-address system played Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Although Brookdale Napa has reported no coronavirus infections among its residents since the first Napa County cases were reported in March 2020, the home’s director said news of the vaccine’s arrival has come as a relief to those largely cut off from family, friends and routines due to the need for social distancing to stem the pandemic’s spread, especially among the oldest and most vulnerable.
“People are excited; our residents are definitely excited,” Steven Mattingly said Thursday. “They see it as a ticket to a return to something like their normal lives.”
With residents between the ages of 66 and 103, Brookdale became one of the first local communities targeted for early supplies of the coronavirus vaccine, for which federal, state and local authorities have prioritized group homes and front-line health care workers to receive initially scarce reserves.
Following each shot was a 15-minute waiting period to allow CVS Health staff to check for any adverse reaction to the vaccine, such as nausea, clammy skin or faintness. Afterward, Brookdale employees lightheartedly celebrated each newly protected resident with an impromptu photo shoot on a “throne” – a velvet-draped chair in front of peach-colored Mylar balloons forming the number 19, beside a placard reading “HEAR YE HEAR YE – YOU HEARD IT RIGHT – COVID-19 VACCINE IS HERE.”
Those vaccinated on Sunday will receive the required second doses at one of the two follow-up clinics Brookdale has scheduled, on Feb. 7 and 28. People who have not yet received the vaccine also may receive both doses on those dates, according to Mattingly, who said Brookdale and CVS Health staff set the clinic dates about two weeks ago.
Brookdale is one of about 50 senior homes in Napa County, according to county spokesperson Janet Upton. Napa County Public Health contacted all local senior-care centers ahead of the vaccine rollout to ensure they enrolled in the federal program to direct some California’s state supply to nursing homes, skilled nursing centers, memory care units and other group living facilities, she said.
As of Saturday, the county also had inoculated 433 residents at 10 facilities, while other vaccination efforts by other agencies have targeted the Rianda House in St. Helena, the state-operated Yountville Veterans Home and other centers, Upton said in an email.
The residents of Brookdale Napa are among those fortunate enough to be inoculated even as demand for the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna surges, along with the number of those infected and killed by COVID-19.
California counties are opening mass vaccination centers they say can help curb the coronavirus surge that is killing more than 500 people a day in the state — but only if they can get the vaccine.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he and other governors were told last week that a reserve supply of 50 million doses would be distributed. California has received more than 3.5 million doses of the vaccine and has administered over 1 million doses, while anticipating hundreds of thousands more.
Michael Pratt, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said there has been no reduction in doses shipped to states. But around the state, counties said they were struggling to make vaccination plans and said mass inoculations of people 65 and older, who represent most COVID-19 deaths, will have to wait, despite Newsom this week adding them to the eligibility list.
Instead, they are focusing on those at the head of the eligibility line: health care workers and the most vulnerable seniors in nursing homes. In addition, it takes two separate doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, spaced three to four weeks apart, to ensure the most complete virus protection, health experts say.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
WATCH NOW: VACCINE ROLLOUT STRUGGLES AMID SURGE IN COVID-19 CASES
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