Saturday, a by-invitation-only COVID-19 vaccination clinic took place at the C.L. Hoover Opera House. About 250 people received their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Co-Director of the C.L. Hoover Opera House Joe Markley said the event went smoothly with no bad reactions to the vaccine out of the 250 who attended.
The event allowed high-risk individuals over the age of 65 who had signed up with the Geary County Health Department to receive their vaccines to be vaccinated in a socially-distanced environment.
“Most people were in and out in less than half an hour,” he said. “It went really well. It was really great cooperation between the county health department and emergency services.”
The only issues the group encountered, according to Markley, was in helping individuals with mobility issues make it from the entrance to the space onstage where the vaccines were being distributed, a process which officials plan to improve upon as the vaccination process continues.
Though there were no problems at the event, there were police officers and EMTs onsite in the event that someone needed their help, Markley said.
“People were pretty well looked after,” he said. “Lots of volunteers from the hospital. And even after that, there was a meeting afterwards to say ’ok, next time, how can we do this better?'”
And there will be a next time, probably some time this month.
Other, similar events are expected to take place later this month, when the health department receives more doses. People who received their first shots Saturday will receive their second doses and more people will be able to receive their first doses of the vaccine.
According to Markley, there will be about 300 doses offered Feb. 13, also in an invitation-only clinic. The health department will contact people with specific times if they’re on the list to receive one of those 300 doses of the vaccine, he said.
“It’s not a walk-in situation,” he said.
People need to be on time to their appointments if they are invited to attend. Doses of the vaccine will not be wasted, according to Markley, and if people come in extremely late to their appointments, their doses may be distributed to others in need, so people need to keep that in mind.
Markley said he was just pleased to have some activity at the opera house after its spring and fall seasons were canceled by the virus against which people were vaccinated within its walls on Saturday.
“The opera house is a community building and we felt it was a great use for it to serve the community in that way,” he said.
Markley feels this is the start of a positive thing.
“I feel like as the — and this is just my feeling, it’s nothing scientific — but as we get into this further, hopefully the supply of vaccine will become greater and we can really get a lot more people kind of run through,” Markley said. “It was a great start at a good show of cooperation between county and city and all the various entities just to try and make the community better. So that’s really encouraging."
More than 3,000 people have signed up with the health department for their COVID-19 vaccines, according to Markley. People are welcome to sign up via a link on the health department’s Facebook page.
“The biggest holdup for them I think is just getting the vaccine,” Markley said.
Markley and his wife, Sheila, were among those who received their doses of the vaccine.
He said neither of them experienced any kind of side effects aside from a sore arm after having their vaccines. He said the vaccine was not particularly painful to receive.
“It’s like this silly disease,” he said. “Some people don’t have hardly any reaction and other people are 40 years old and nothing seems to be wrong and they die of it, you know? I mean, it’s hard to see rhyme and reason with it.”
Geary County Commissioner Trish Giordano said she was glad to see the vaccination clinic go off so well.
"I was very pleased with the first public vaccine clinic that was held at the Opera House, Saturday,” she said in a written statement submitted to the Union Sunday. "As with any first event, we learned what could be done better for next time. This could not have happened without the cooperation of the great employees of Geary County, Junction City, Geary Community Hospital and Valley View Senior Life along with other volunteers.”
First responders and high-risk individuals are still in the process of being vaccinated. People’s age and risk factors are being factored into the decision of who to vaccinate first.
"The health of Geary County is extremely important … the Health Department is unable to provide information on where a resident is on the list due to the fact it is a fluid list. If you haven’t signed up yet, the site is https://form.jotform.com/210035411304031,” Giordano said.
She asked people to be patient as only limited amounts of the vaccine are available at this time.
"We are asking for patience and understanding during this time,” Giordano said. "This a learning experience for everyone. Mistakes are going to be made. As long as we learn from those mistakes, we are succeeding. As long as we learn from them, we are succeeding. Our goal is to push out information on a regular basis to keep the public better informed. Please continue to wear your mask and social distance the best you can. Geary County is resilient, and we will get through this."