Verena at the Reserve team members host vaccination clinic onsite for residents

Verena at the Reserve Receives COVID-19 Vaccines

The health and safety of the residents and team members at Verena at the Reserve is our top priority, and we are taking additional measures, beyond the requirements of government and health authorities, to protect everyone in the community.

Verena at the Reserve retirement community receives vaccines, with help from The Prescription Shoppe

FEB 05, 2021 AT 6:20 PM

On a cold and damp Friday afternoon, a balloon arch curved over the entryway to the main the dining room at the Verena at the Reserve Retirement Community. The tables were filled with senior citizens chatting amongst themselves at spaced-out tables, and employees bustled back and forth between them, sporting plastic tiaras as they wiped down tables.

The reason for the happy atmosphere, despite the somber weather, could be seen on a plastic utility cart, wheeled around by The Prescription Shoppe’s Jade Ranger — syringes full of Moderna vaccine, set to go into arms over the course of the following two hours.

For many of the 146 residents living full time at Verena — around 96% of the capacity of the independent living facility in Williamsburg, Virginia — this was their first chance to get the vaccine. According to Mark Booth, director of sales and marketing for the retirement community, a few residents had already been vaccinated through their primary care physicians and a few had opted out because of medical concerns after advice from their doctors. But everybody was notified, Booth said, and the majority of residents opted in.

Marty Lott, age 83, said she was “excited” to get the vaccine, though as a former nurse, she had “many unanswered questions.”

“That’s kind of dangerous,” she joked about the knowledge she gained from her former profession.

Though the new approach used by the COVID-19 vaccines — which utilize mRNA from the virus to train the human body’s immune response rather than dead or weakened COVID-19 cells as most vaccines do — was not as “tried and true” as the vaccines Lott was familiar with, prompting her questions for Jade Ranger, she felt that the “amazing” development could be the future of vaccines.

“I have nothing but kudos to Denise,” Lott said of the community’s executive director, Denise Harper’s, efforts as she waited for her injection with her friend, Marion Brooks, age 87. When the time came, they both received their vaccination with ease.

The residents of Verena have been waiting for their vaccine for the same long months as the rest of the Historic Triangle, perhaps more anxiously than most due to their age and vulnerability to the deadly COVID-19 virus. Now, thanks to the joint efforts of Verena, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Prescription Shoppe, many of the residents got their first dose Friday.

The vaccination event “brings safety and security for the residents,” Booth said.

“I’m so thrilled,” said Harper. She worked closely with The Prescription Shoppe, a local pharmacy that has been distributing COVID vaccines to the area since mid-January, to make the event happen.

According to Harper, Verena has worked closely with The Prescription Shoppe in the past, holding similar drives in-residence for the annual flu vaccine. Around December, she reached out to Henry Ranger, who co-owns the local pharmacy with his wife Jade, to see if it would be possible to host an event for the COVID vaccine.

At the time, Henry Ranger was unsure when they would get the vaccine or how many doses they would receive. But as supply began to increase, he began to fill out the necessary forms and reached out to the necessary health departments to get the ball rolling. According to Jade Ranger, the health department has been creating spreadsheets of long-term care facilities, asking pharmacies to step in with local distribution.

That local outreach is something that Jade Ranger and her husband have done for years as pharmacists. In 2011, when he worked at Farm Fresh, Jade Ranger said, her husband began calling senior living facilities to bring other necessary vaccines to them, for elderly residents who might have limited mobility. They did the same thing when they were pharmacists at Wal-Mart, and “now, we’re doing it with The Prescription Shoppe.”

Hosting events like this for the COVID-19 vaccine was a natural extension of that same idea, and they plan to do similar events for other long-term care facilities in the future, if possible.

Those efforts paid off, Harper said. When she reached out to the Peninsula Health Department on her end to see if The Prescription Shoppe could get vaccines for Verena residents, the representative was aware of the work the Rangers put into distributing their Moderna doses.

Harper believes that The Prescription Shoppe’s efforts were the “driving force” in making the event happen.

The pharmacy was given 200 doses of Moderna vaccine specifically for the event. Jade Ranger stressed that those vaccines are distributed by the health department on a separate basis from the doses most people in Phase 1B can hope to receive, and that there are still limited vaccines for everyone else. It’s part of the state’s distribution plan — long-term care facilities, with their extremely vulnerable residents, have a partnership with the VDH to ensure they get enough of the still-scarce vaccine.

Paramedics and nurses were on site in case of reactions, and each resident waited for an extra 15 minutes after their injection to ensure there were no adverse effects from the vaccination.

Jade Ranger also listed off information about the vaccines for each socially distanced, masked-up group of residents who entered the dining area. Most people’s worst side effect is a sore arm for a few days, though some people can feel under the weather for two to three days afterwards.

“Stay hydrated, get rest and you can take Tylenol as a last resort,” she said, standing in front of the balloon arch before making her way to each resident with gloves, syringes and Band-Aids.

Some residents were relatively underwhelmed by the event. Asked if he was excited to finally get the COVID-19 vaccine, Samuel Cohen, age 91, said “It’s not the highlight of my week, but yeah.”

He explained that the pandemic hasn’t been as hard for him “as it must be on a lot of people,” because he was lucky enough to have his wife, Dot Cohen, living with him in Verena.

Dot Cohen was more excited about the vaccine, and said “they promised it would preserve my extreme good looks,” adding that she was happy to get the injection “over with.”

The first thing Samuel Cohen planned to do, once he was fully immunized?

“Go back to my apartment,” he said. Other residents were more excited that things seem to be taking a turn for the normal.

Brooks said that she was looking forward to getting to go outside again, once she received her second dose and the world becomes safer. Her children had been telling her to stay inside for months, she said, to the point that she’s been waiting for any reason to leave her apartment.

“I’ve been excited to get blood work done, because they’ll take me for a short ride after,” she said, laughing with her friend Lott.
Ruth Evans, 88 and resident at Verena for five years, said she would “do what she has to” for her six children, who want her to stay safe.

“Hopefully, everybody can get well, and the world will turn around,” she said simply. “It’s a big job.”

Maggie More, 757-446-2305, [email protected]

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