First Surry COVID vaccine event declared highly successful

By Terry Harris

In the first ever Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Surry County High School last Saturday, the scheduled 2 to 4 p.m. event planned for 90 vaccinations for school staff and employees was greatly expanded when a number of other doses of the vaccine unexpectedly appeared mid-afternoon.

“We did not waste any dosages,” said Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims. “I looked up and saw Mrs. Katrina Saphrey, Senior Epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health coming in with a big, rectangular container that looked like portable insulated oven bins. She had come in with additional dosages. We initially realized that with the folks we had pre-registered we would have 22 doses left over and had been calling to make sure that we got every one of those in the arms of someone who needed them.  When the new dosages came in – I think we ended up with about 250 in all – Mr. Ray Phelps, Chief of Emergency Management, got out an instant alert to let citizens know that some were available on a first come-first served basis.”

Phelps, who had stayed busy throughout the event overseeing the operation and setting up second appointments for those who had just received their injection, confirmed that they were able to administer 251 shots in all, brought in from leftover vaccines from other areas where vaccination clinics within Crater Health District had been held that day.

“Surry County was very fortunate to receive those additional vaccines we had not planned on,” he said.

Relating how they managed to get the rest of the shots into the arms of those who needed them, he said, “We have an Everbridge Mass Alert System, and we used that to notify the public if they fell in the 1b list which included citizens 65 or older they could come in right away and have the opportunity to receive a vaccine.  We could not guarantee one, because we did not know how many would be coming in, but the opportunity was there.  We were scheduled from two until four, but we finally got the last shot into an arm at a quarter to nine Saturday night.  We were really lucky to be able to serve more than we expected during this first time.”

As people exited after receiving their vaccines, there were smiles, comments of surprise that the shots were relatively painless, and expressions of relief at finally being vaccinated. 

Lynne Jones, Executive Assistant to Superintendent Sims, said, “I had ambivalent feelings because I don’t like needles, but I got through it and I’m glad that I did take it.  I’m glad they’re finally having them here.  I am also glad that it is not mandatory.  It’s your choice to take it or not and I think that’s a good thing.” 

Teresa Johnson, Business and Information Technology teacher and CTE department head who was walking out with Jones echoed the sentiment that she was glad that the decision to take the shot was not mandatory and added, “I didn’t have any problems whatever.  All I felt was a little pinch.  I am glad they are finally getting shots here.  I tried to get one earlier at Smithfield, but they cancelled it.  This is convenient for the county residents – it really is.”

Phelps said afterward, “Surry county owes big thanks to volunteer vaccinators and rescue squad, and I’d like to personally thank all vols who stepped up to the plate to get vaccines in the arms in Surry County. We had around 5 nurses, which was scheduled to be enough for the 90 vaccines we expected, but everybody worked really hard and I greatly appreciate the collaborative effort between Surry County, the deputies, volunteers and Crater Health District.”

“I’d also like to thank Superintendent Sims and all the Surry County School staff for opening up their facility and providing manpower,” he continued.  “We could not have done it without them.” 

When asked about the need for volunteers going forward with the effort to make all Surry County citizens safe, Phelps said that there is a tremendous need for greeters, registration staff, individuals to wipe down seats between use, individuals to direct people, and especially qualified vaccinators like nurses, doctors, pharmacists, paramedics, E.M.T. intermediates, and that anyone who would like to volunteer to help is asked to call 757-294-5292. 

“I thought it went great!” he added.  “It was a bit hectic at times, but a huge accomplishment for Surry County.  We were able to pull in 161 citizens over and above what we were slotted for to receive vaccinations at the drop of a dime.  It was a great trial run. Going forward I feel very positive about it.”