HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The smiles on these faces that came through John Hunt Park’s Jaycee Center showed this group of those ages 75 and older is ready to take the first major step toward a sense of normalcy.
“Being old like we are, we came out here three days ago to make sure we knew where to go,” vaccine recipient Bill Stone said.
Anne and Bill Stone were the first of 200 seniors vaccinated at Huntsville Hospital’s new vaccine clinic ‘soft opening,’ but Huntsville Hospital’s Tracy Doughty said this is only the beginning.
“Starting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m., we’ll do about 325 to 400 a day and then we’ll ramp up after that,” Doughty said.
The clinic will be open five days a week from now on.
“We’ve seen pictures and read articles across the country where there are lines for miles and miles. We don’t want to create that kind of atmosphere here in Huntsville, so we thought that appointments were the best way to go,” Doughty said.
Staff members call each person to let them know when their appointment will be.
“They made about 2,500 appointments already. We had about 15 to 16 thousand reservations. They’re working through those as fast as they can,” Doughty said.
Doughty said it is crucial those who do get appointment confirmation, do not miss their time slot. If they do, there is potential for that vaccine to go to waste if it remains thawed for too long.
For couples like Ann and Harry Bandgren, this is the beginning of the end of a long, isolating season.
“We didn’t know when, we’ve been waiting with anticipation and we were just so pleased that it happened so soon, and I just can’t thank God enough,” Ann Bandgren said.
As the couples now wait for their second dose in the coming weeks, they urge others to get their first dose as soon as they can.
“When I was a child I took the polio vaccine, I took the smallpox vaccine, I took measles vaccine, and this is just smart to do this,” Anne Stone said.
Doughty said they should be getting a new shipment of 4,000 vaccines from the federal government this week. He stresses that if those who are eligible want to be vaccinated they must sign up for the waiting list online.