’It’s a relief’: Casey’s Pond residents receive COVID-19 vaccines
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was a busy morning at Casey’s Pond on Monday, as 100% of its residents opted to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The clinic was a joint effort between Walgreens, which was contracted with the federal government to begin vaccinating the people living and working in the skilled nursing section with the Pfizer vaccine, and Routt County Public Health for the rest of the Casey’s Pond population.
Lyon’s Corner Drug assisted with the public health side of the clinic, which gave Moderna vaccines to people living and working in the assisted and independent living neighborhoods.
Brad Boatright, executive director of Casey’s Pond, said 82 residents — which is all but two who were medically unable to receive the vaccine — were vaccinated Monday.
“Today marks a new beginning for our community,” he said. “We are not out the woods yet, but we can see the clearing and the dawning of a brighter day.”
Ed Odell, 88, said it was hard to put into words just how momentous the shot in his arm felt.
“It’s a relief,” he said. “To know the process has started to make me immune to COVID-19.”
The hardest part of the past nine months, Odell said, “Is that I can’t have my family come and see me.” That includes grandchildren and great-grandchildren as well as a daughter who died this year.
And while Odell stayed as active as he could, biking and taking walks outside, he doesn’t drive and couldn’t go anywhere. While he knew some of the people at Casey’s Pond who died as a result of COVID-19, Odell said he didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about getting it.
Every time he left his apartment he wore a mask.
“I’ve always felt that if I do everything I can do, then if something bad happens, it will not be because I let it happen, but because it was time for it to happen,” Odell said. “I always wear a mask — that’s something I can do.”
Odell said he got the call Sunday night informing him he would have the opportunity to get vaccinated Monday. And he had no hesitancy about getting the shot.
“They had the syringes ready, and I said ‘I’m ready to get it.’ I never had any problems with vaccinations,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the threat of COVID-19 is a lot worse than the threat of something bad happening from receiving an injection.”
Steamboat resident Dr. Ronald Krall, an adjunct professor of neurology at the University of Rochester and former chief medical officer for GlaxoSmithKline, said both the Pfizer and Moderna trials included about 20% of participants who were 65 and older. There was no data available on precisely how many people were in their 80s or 90s, he said.
But in that over-65 group, the efficacy was essentially identical to the younger population. And the side-effect profile was very similar, he said.
“All in all, the takeaways from both trials was that older patients seem to do just as well as younger people, getting the same degree of protection and experiencing about the same side effects,” Krall said.
Given there will be a lot of older people vaccinated nationally in the first phases of vaccine administration, Krall noted more data will come quickly.
Monday at Casey’s Pond was “a wonderful step in the right direction,” Krall said. “This will begin to provide real and meaningful protection for the residents.”
More than 80 Casey’s Pond staff received the vaccine either Monday or last Wednesday, which makes up about 60% of total staff, according to Boatright.
“I am so thankful and so grateful be one of the first to get the vaccine,” said Doak Walker House staff member Monique Lingle.
“As staff, it’s amazing to be able to do this, so we can protect the residents we care for,” she said.
The staff and residents at Casey’s Pond join about 2 million other Americans who have thus far received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some staff were unable to be at Casey’s Pond on Monday, and others were medically unable to get the vaccine, but most of the rest of the 40% of remaining staff elected not to receive it at this time or could not confirm they would be in town for the second booster shot.
Katie Keller, a social worker at Casey’s Pond, said there are a range of emotions circulating when it comes to the vaccine, and some conflicting emotions around weighing the personal risks against the greater good.
“There are people not wanting to get the vaccine, and we have to honor that, as well,” she said.
Keller said Routt County Public Health held a Zoom meeting with staff about the vaccine, answering questions and providing valuable information.
But there remain unknowns, she said, especially about any long-term effects.
“Our brains are designed to fear what we don’t know,” Keller said.
And people’s brains don’t have much of a reference point for decision making during a pandemic and related to a vaccine developed in record time, Keller added.
“This pandemic has been a traumatic experience for everyone,” Keller said.
Setter urges compassion toward all people in making what for many is a difficult and scary decision on whether to get vaccinated.
However, when weighing their risk versus benefit and making what is a personal and voluntary choice, the residents were unanimous in their decision to get vaccinated Monday.
“It’s easy as pie,” said Casey’s Pond resident Noreen Guler after her shot. “It will protect you for a long time, so everybody should get the vaccine.”
Routt County Public Health will be providing vaccines to The Haven in Hayden on Tuesday, where director Adrienne Isdal said 100% of residents and 95% of staff are ready for their first dose of the vaccine.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Sheila Symons’ son got COVID-19 around Labor Day. He has since missed about five weeks of school, spent five days at Children’s Hospital in Aurora and has seen more doctors than an 11-year-old child should.