Some closed their eyes tightly as they got the jab, while others stared straight ahead, taking in the scene around them.
Others, being observed after they had received their shots, reached down to nuzzle the soft fur and gaze into the eyes of a golden therapy dog named Rain, who had been brought to the event to comfort and amuse them.
But whatever they did and however they felt, it is unlikely that the group of teenagers, seated in the Great Hall of Vashon High School (VHS), will ever forget the day they received their first vaccination for COVID-19.
The vaccination clinic, held on Monday, was arranged in partnership by Vashon Island School District, Vashon Pharmacy, VashonBePrepared, and Vashon’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC). It will be followed by another clinic on Thursday, resulting in the vaccination of approximately 80 students, ages 16 and older.
VHS Principal Danny Rock, who had championed the idea of vaccinating students on the school grounds, started the day by sitting with Vashon Pharmacy owner Tyler Young, working on the day’s list of pre-registered students.
“A lot of our teens have already been vaccinated,” Rock said. “They went to get their shots as soon as they could when it opened up to everyone 16 and older, and many qualified earlier because of their work. So this week’s vaccinations are going to be a little lower than I thought.”
Still, there were plenty of students at the school who had eagerly signed up.
Max Bringhurst, age 17, and Gordon Grunwald, age 16, both got their first dose of vaccine from MRC member Hannah Harper.
“It’s pretty cool the school is giving vaccinations,” Bringhurst said. “I live in Seattle and it was hard to find a vaccination slot. I went through tons of waitlists. So, when I found out this was available, I signed up right away.”
Grunwald was equally enthusiastic about the day.
“I think it’s great everybody is getting vaccinated,” he said. “Kids and staff will feel better about being around each other in terms of spreading COVID.”
For Payton Venturi, age 18, the day at school provided the chance for her to become fully vaccinated. A bonus dose of happiness came with her chance to interact with Rain, a therapy dog brought to the event by Jinna Risdal, of VashonBePrepared’s Community Care Team.
“It’s awesome that the vaccination is here, that the pharmacy brought the vaccine here,” Venturi said. “I just got my second shot today. And Rain was very calming.”
Rick Wallace, the manager of VashonBePrepared’s Emergency Operations Center and the maestro of much of Vashon’s intricate and effective response to the pandemic, was also on the scene at the high school on Monday.
For Wallace, seeing so many youths being vaccinated in such a smooth and streamlined process was a moment to revel in and yet another step in the overall success story of Vashon’s high vaccination rate.
“It’s amazing that Vashon has responded so strongly to the opportunity to be vaccinated,” Wallace said. “We are currently the most vaccinated community in King County. About 75% of our adult population, aged 16 and older, have had their first dose of vaccine.”
Still, as has been his realistic refrain since the dawn of the pandemic, Wallace also urged caution.
“We’re in a race to get folks vaccinated because our county just officially hit the fourth infection spike since the pandemic began last year,” he said. “Even though our infection rate is pretty low on Vashon, our county as a whole looks worse every day. The King County case rate is worse now than at any time since the pandemic began with the exception of the super spike we had in November and December.”
In an email later in the day to The Beachcomber, Wallace warned that it was likely that Gov. Inslee would do to King County what had recently been done to Pierce County a few weeks ago — a rollback to Phase 2 of his Road Map to Recovery Plan. Phase 2 would mandate lower capacity at restaurants and other venues, as well as other restrictions.
On Monday, Public Health Seattle King County’s performance indicators went above the red line of the Phase 3 limit, with cases at 226 per 100,000, above the target of 200. Hospitalizations were at 5.2, also above the target. Judgment day will come on Monday, May 3, in an announcement from Inslee.
But whatever happens, by the end of this week, approximately 80 more youth on Vashon will have been vaccinated — and will forever have the memory, etched in their minds, of the day their town and school district came together to make sure they were safe.