Ruth Koscelniak, who lived through the pandemic of 1918, was greeted with flowers for her vaccination for the novel coronavirus.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Lauren Gotlieb said she didn't even feel the physical pinprick of the needle.
But there was an emotional feeling of getting the COVID-19 vaccine was difficult to describe.
"I don't even know how to describe that it's life saving," she said. "It's globally life-saving. It's amazing as people that we were able to make it happen."
Gotlieb was one of about 700 people who were given their first vaccine shot on Thursday at the vaccination site set up at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center. She was eligible as a health-care worker under the state guidelines since she works as an athletic trainer.
"Most of my clients are older, so I feel like I'm doing this for them as well," she said.
The several dozen volunteers and Northern Berkshire EMS personnel had the clinic running like clockwork on this second day of the clinic, which is expected to continue through the next weeks for individuals eligible in Phase 2.
The priority is getting those 75 and older inoculated, then the ages 65 and those with co-morbidities before getting to other essential workers.
Personnel had something of a test run a couple weeks ago as first-responders went through the first round of vaccinations. Last week, they were ready to bring through hundreds of individuals who spent on average 20 minutes at the clinic.
People entered through the St. Anthony Drive door and were registered, had their temperature taken and their hands sanitized in the lobby. From there, they entered the hall where they completed a form and waited to be called to one of five vaccination stations.
"We have our group in the back and they're drawing up all the medication," site coordinator Amalio Jusino said. "They don't go anywhere. They don't do anything else. They draw the Pfizer vaccine and do quality control from the moment it gets here until the moment of release. And then they bring it out here."
Once vaccinated and receiving their paperwork, they were ushered to socially distanced tables for at least 15 minutes to ensure no side effects. If they signed up through the state website, they were given a secure link to signup for the second shot in North Adams. If they signed up through their local Council on Aging, the council would contact them the next day to set up their second appointment.
"We have a good team, good regional collaborative effort," said volunteer Jay Green, town administrator for Adams. "We have good showing from Adams Council on Aging and Adams staff. The feedback has been good from the public, process flow was good. We're able to handle and vaccinate quite a few folks in a small space and that's the goal is to be able to vaccinate as many people as possible."
Individual were asked to make out a survey on their experience. Flipping through the surveys it was apparent that the clinic was getting high marks pretty consistently along with personal notes thanking the volunteers.
"We had somebody from Springfield today that was floored at how smooth the process is," Jusino said. "That's what we love hearing and I've heard the same thing down at the field house at Berkshire Community College and middle school down in Great Barrington."
That process also includes outside where police were directing traffic and firefighters were had a donated electric cart to take people back to their cars if necessary, since they had to walk out through Holden Street entrance.
Some cases they've gone above and beyond, as told by LaKeisha M. Gandy, who brought her mother all the way from the eastern end of the state but ran out of gas near Florida. She called the vaccination site looking for help.
"Not only did they send gas," she wrote on the North Adams Fire Department's Facebook page. "The lieutenant of the fire department brought the gas and gave us an escort to the vaccination site."
The volunteers calmed her mother, who was afraid to get the shot, and made sure she had something to eat.
"Thank you all, my mom is home now singing in her room and can't stop taking about her firefighter escort and the vaccine workers welcoming her with open arms," Gandy wrote.
The North Berkshire clinic and the two other large sites at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield and W.E.B. DuBois Middle School in Great Barrington are part of a regional collaborative between local emergency services and the Berkshire County Boards of Health, with assistance from Berkshire Medical Center.
While not technically categorized as "mass vaccination" sites by the state, the three locations are functioning that way. Gov. Charlie Baker made a point last week of referencing Berkshire County as a model for other parts of the state.
Jusino said the governor is welcome to visit the clinic and see how it is operating.
"From the federal level all the way down to here, the amount of hands that are involved is outstanding," he said. "The faces that we've never met personally but the conversations that exist every single day, and then the collaboration really is all everybody in the county. ... We're all heroes in the process.
"We're not doing something better than Pittsfield, Pittsfield's not doing something better than us. In fact, if we had that mentality we would fail."
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