CARTHAGE, MO – Gail Matthews, 64, drove out of Springfield for an hour Tuesday to receive her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer in Jasper County. However, their appointment only lasted 10 minutes.
Though not preferred, Matthews said the mass vaccination clinic at Fairview Christian Church in Carthage was worth the drive. The Jasper County Health Department is working with the Missouri National Guard and local communities to bring the two-day clinic at 2320 Grand Ave. in Carthage.
“When I called to make an appointment in Springfield, everyone was booked,” said Matthews. “They said they would try to bring me closer and that was it.”
Approximately 1,000 people have registered for the two-day event, but additional recordings are available. The state is currently in Phase 1B, Stage 2 of its vaccination rollout plan, which will include those at increased risk of serious illness. Phase 1B, Level 3, which allows educators and other critical staff, will be activated on March 15th.
The vaccination process was a lot easier than Matthews originally thought. She said the indoor clinic was extremely efficient and painless.
“My husband already had his vaccination because he is older than me and he said his took a long time, but it was so organized,” she said. “You really did a great job.”
Winona Knight, 66, from Carthage, was vaccinated Tuesday after overcoming COVID-19 in November. Knight said she didn’t end up in the hospital but had a fever for several days and hadn’t had the strength to get out of bed.
“I know I had it because I’ve never felt this way and I don’t want anyone to have to go through it,” she said. “I don’t usually get sick, but I was down for two weeks. I had a 102 degree fever for 10 days. I hope if I ever get it again it won’t be that bad. “
Knight was also impressed with the design and effectiveness of the indoor clinic. The Carthaginian native said she only waited about five minutes before being seen.
“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was amazed with the setup.”
Jasper County has received over 23,000 vaccinations, according to the state COVID-19 dashboard. Tony Moehr, director of the Jasper County Department of Health, said although local cases are trending down, they are still receiving vaccine deliveries slowly.
“Often we only get 100 doses a week or two,” said Möhr. “We had several smaller clinics. This is our first big one that we sponsored with the National Guard. We are prepared to take 1,800 pictures today and tomorrow. “
Only about a third of Jasper County’s population aged 65 and over has been vaccinated, he said.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Rivera said the guard has about 30 people assisting the clinic.
“It was great to see the support not only from medical students but also from nurses and health departments,” he said. “It’s great when a church can gather, and we’re seeing it all over the state.”
The County Health Department and Missouri National Guard were supported by the City of Joplin, the Joplin Health Department, the City of Carthage, the Kansas City University of Medicine and Life Sciences at Joplin, the Carthage Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and Mercy EMS Ozark Center in Joplin. An estimated 80 to 90 volunteers were working on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of companies here that are not from Carthage. Since we are the local police department here, we can answer a lot of questions,” said Chad Dininger, Carthage police spokesman. “It was very smooth for us. This may be the first pandemic we will be vaccinated in, but we have planned and trained for this. We developed these strategies and relationships a long time ago, and when you see them come together it’s nice to know you are exercising for a reason. “
Patricia Palanca, a second year medical student at the KCU, volunteered on Tuesday to give vaccines with nine of her colleagues who changed shifts. Palanca, 25, said this was her first vaccination clinic, which she said was a rewarding experience. Her father Roy died of COVID-19 in April and she is happy to be able to make a difference.
“I didn’t expect it to be that big,” said Palanca. “It’s super rewarding, especially because we were all there. When one can participate in such things, the circle comes full circle. “
Kenneth Stewart, a physician and assistant professor of clinical medicine at KCU, said his team of students are excited about the opportunity to work with patients in the community. As a faculty, Stewart said it was fulfilling to see students gain more confidence in the field.
“Students volunteer their time and that is so good for their morale,” he said. “It’s encouraging for them to say, ‘That’s why I went to medical school to take care of people.'”
The vaccination clinic on Wednesday is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Fairview Christian. A follow-up clinic for the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is planned for the end of March.
To register, qualified individuals can log into the Missouri Vaccine Navigator online at www.mostopscovid.com or call the hotline at 877-435-8411. Anyone 65 or older who needs assistance can call the Regional Aging Agency at 417-781-7562.