UH Samaritan's Tanya Mounts administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to June McFarlin of Jeromesville on Friday, Jan. 22. 

ASHLAND -- Carolyn Bonesteel has been waiting for months to play bridge with her friends. 

The 86-year-old Ashland resident has learned to play online during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she was grateful Friday morning to be one step closer to the return of in-person games. 

“I want to be safe and start going out and living my life again,” Bonesteel said after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

She would be one of more than 400 Ashland residents to receive the vaccine Friday, Jan. 22 at UH Samaritan Hospital’s 663 East Main Street facility. 

The clinic was organized via a collaboration between the Ashland County Health Department, UH Samaritan Medical Center and Drug Mart. The three entities combined all or a portion of the vaccine they had received with intentions to streamline its distribution. 

The ACHD contributed 200 doses of the vaccine; UH Samaritan Medical Center gave its 100 doses; and Drug Mart contributed 100 of its 200 doses to Friday’s event. The remaining 100 would be distributed from the pharmacy’s location on Claremont Avenue. 

“Bottom line, what we want to get this community vaccinated,” UH Samaritan communications and development manager Kathy Witmer said. “It was just a great partnership to make the best of what the health department could offer, what Samaritan could loan, and Drug Mart could then also help. Nobody wants to see any vaccines not be given.”

Most in line for the vaccine Friday were residents at least 80-years-old. They are the first to receive the vaccine in the Tier 1B phase. A few people who qualified as Tier 1A -- first responders, medical professionals and others -- would also receive the vaccine. 

“I’m happy to be here,” Bonesteel said. “I’ve had to learn things about myself I didn’t know. I’ve learned patience, which I’ve never had before, and I read a lot, I play bridge online, and I even clean my house a little bit.”  

She was pleasantly surprised by the vaccination clinic. She described the event as “organized.” The process was faster than she anticipated, and the vaccination was “painless,” she said. 

June McFarlin of Jeromesville had a similar experience. The 91-year-old woman opted to receive the vaccine because her children asked her to do it. 

“It didn’t hurt a bit. Get it. Don’t hesitate for a second,” McFarlin said. 

As instructed by the medical professionals, both Bonesteel and McFarlin waited 15 minutes in observation before leaving the clinic. Everyone who received the vaccine was asked to stay where they’d be monitored for any reaction. 

Vaccines began at 9 a.m., and no one had yet experienced any adverse reaction at 11 a.m., Witmer said. The clinic was to continue through 3 p.m.

“This is the 80 and over crowd with a few exceptional health conditions mixed in, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” director of the Ashland County Emergency Management Agency Mark Rafeld said. 

More than 30 volunteers joined staff from UH Samaritan, ACHD and Drug Mart on Friday. They ran registration, made phone calls to schedule vaccinations and helped patients find their way around the facility. 

At least one area teacher was calling to schedule appointments between her classes, ACHD public health emergency coordinator Sheila Pryor said. Others have been putting in just as many hours as a paid employee. 

A local business donated lunch for the employees and volunteers. And other area businesses have asked to do the same for future clinics.

“I think it’s amazing that there’s this many groups working together to do the best for our community,” ACHD nursing director Shirley Bixby.  

When individuals arrived at the clinic, they were directed to enter the side of the building. They were screened with a series of questions, then waited to register. They received the vaccine at one of eight stations and were monitored for 15 minutes before leaving the location. 

“We’re only limited by the amount of vaccine we receive. We’ll have the vaccine clinic up and running again when we get more vaccine,” UH Samaritan President Todd Harford said.

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