Editor’s Note: After The Beachcomber received this dispatch from Susan Riemer, former Beachcomber Editor and now Community Relations Director at Vashon Community Care, a resident tested positive for COVID-19 after an exposure at an off-island medical facility. This is VCC’s first positive COVID-19 case after an apparent false positive this summer. (See EOC Situation Report for news of the new case, page 8). The Beachcomber and the EOC will continue to closely follow this case and any subsequent developments at VCC. But here at the newspaper, we also felt it was important to mark the milestone of vaccination day at VCC with this article detailing both the elation and relief experienced by the staff and residents on Dec. 23. The story of COVID-19 is filled with progress as well as setbacks. This story focuses on the former. — Elizabeth Shepherd
Residents and staff at Vashon Community Care received the first COVID-19 vaccinations given on the island Wednesday, Dec. 23.
VCC’s nurse and a regional nurse with Transforming Age, which operates the facility, administered nearly 60 vaccines over a three-hour time frame.
Extensive planning went into the effort, which will be repeated on Jan. 13 and again in February. These three sessions will enable VCC to adhere to the required two-dose protocol for the Pfizer vaccine and follow the recommendations to vaccinate staff at different times. The atmosphere in the building, just two days before Christmas, was festive.
John Whitney has been a resident of VCC for 9 years. He is the Resident Council president and is known in the building for his green thumb and good work in the residents’ garden. After he received his vaccine on Wednesday, he joked that the pandemic has made him feel like a decadent divorcé, eating all his meals in bed. He has felt safe at VCC, he said, but the vaccine will provide additional protection against the virus, and in time, will allow residents to mingle freely.
“I am looking forward to getting back with our community, with our fellow residents and the larger community of Vashon,” he said.
Director of Care Services Krystal Willingham went from apartment to apartment, administering the shot to Whitney and other residents. An additional team assisted with the process by monitoring residents afterward and providing refreshments.
Willingham is a registered nurse who has overseen VCC’s infection control protocol throughout the pandemic, but her roots with VCC go back many years — to the old building, where she volunteered as a junior high school student. For her, Wednesday was an extraordinary day.
“I had an overwhelming sense of enjoyment, but I had to remain very focused because the vaccine is so fragile,” she said. “I always say this job is a privilege, but to administer this vaccine — that is just beyond words for me. Truly, I feel very lucky.”
VCC Executive Director Wendy Kleppe said she is happy with how the first round of vaccinations went. She noted she appreciates the efforts of Transforming Age, which has operated VCC since 2017 and worked to ensure that its residents were among the first to receive the vaccine in Washington. She is looking forward to the months ahead when staff, residents and the broader community will be protected against COVID-19. She grew emotional when talking about the day.
“Residents, families and staff have been on a long, long road,” she said. “We finally have hope.”