HANNIBAL — More than 500 people who found it hard to get the COVID-19 vaccine received their first shots and appointments for their second doses during Monday’s vaccination clinic at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, led by Hannibal Regional and community partners.
Hannibal Regional staff teamed up with volunteers and multiple community partners so people facing barriers to getting the vaccine could receive the Moderna vaccine. Todd Ahrens, CEO and president of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, said Hannibal Regional’s designation as a High Throughput COVID Vaccination Site brings a “somewhat regular cadence of doses” and the opportunity to reach more people in the area who might be facing challenges, like living in a community where the vaccine is not widely available or facing transportation challenges to reaching the Hannibal Regional medical campus.
Ahrens said the clinic was set up to be accessible for people who live and work downtown. A team of medical staff, volunteers and community partners worked together to reach out to people who needed vaccines in the area — United Way and Douglass Community Services reached out to clients to assist in setting up an appointment. The city of Hannibal provided the use of the recreation center, with plenty of space for 10 vaccination pods and a socially-distanced area so staff with the Marion County Ambulance District and EMS personnel could monitor for reactions for 15 minutes.
Ahrens said the community effort made the event “very efficient”, and he commended the dedicated volunteers, employees, and partners from area agencies performing different tasks to keep everything running smoothly. Eric Abts, Hannibal YMCA CEO, was shuttling people to and from their vehicles, homes or places of business.
Janet Taylor, Hannibal Regional Auxiliary president, was on hand with her husband and fellow volunteers.
“Right now it’s a passion for us, because of the fact that we want to be able to get back with our folks, we want to get back with our friends having coffee and we just want to travel again,” Taylor said. “And this is the one thing we can do to help make this happen.”
Taylor said the response has been “overwhelming”. She said everyone volunteered to come, and the joy was evident in their voices.
“It’s just, ‘Oh thank you. I can get in?’” Taylor said. “It’s a happy feeling, and they’re excited to get here.”
Jessica Gilmore, director of pharmacy and quality, said appointment times and the layout of the vaccination pods made the process streamlined, with the process taking 20 minutes or less from beginning to end.
“We’re so happy to do this,” Gilmore said.
“Hannibal Regional feels like our responsibility here is not just in Hannibal or not just on campus — it’s really to find a way to vaccinate everybody in Northeast Missouri that needs to be vaccinated,” Ahrens said.
People 65 years and older or who have certain health conditions are being sought most right now, and Ahrens estimated that demographic is close to half of the community. Everyone who arrived for their first shot received a follow up appointment for the important second dose, Ahrens said.
“I want to get all those people vaccinated, so we can get back to normal. We all want be able to get to the point where we don’t have to wear our masks all the time, we can go out to eat, and do fun things with our families and kids,” Ahrens said. “We think this is a big part of that, and we’re certainly happy to do it.”
Wendy Harrington, president and CEO of Hannibal Regional Foundation, expressed her happiness about the event
“A special thanks to our partners — they’re helping us reach a population that we knew might be facing barriers to come out to our campus. They’re the ones that really we want to see get vaccinated,” Harrington said. “So at the end of the day, we’re giving vaccines, knowing we can reach people close to where they live. That really lets us embrace our vision and do what we need to be doing.”