Since COVID-19 began disrupting our everyday routines last year, we’ve taken advantage of various drive-throughs, curbside pickups and to-go offers. Correspondingly, when Emil and I received our first Moderna vaccine shots on Inauguration Day, we never had to leave the comfort of our pickup truck.
We participated in a massive four-day drive-through inoculation effort at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Brenham, Texas. This hub was created to quickly provide COVID shots to 2,000 eligible persons in a multi-county rural area. Planned with remarkable precision, the event marked a feat even for Texas, where you may have heard that everything is bigger.
Here’s how our experience played out.
Baffling busy signals
To schedule their inoculations, area residents were instructed to call a 1-800 number and leave their names.
On Monday, Jan. 18, the first day to register, anxious people literally spent hours hitting redial. The phone system crashed for a short time due to the overload. When I called 40 or 50 times on Tuesday, Jan. 19, all I got was a busy signal.
On Wednesday, Jan. 20, I tried again at 6 a.m. Busy!
Emil said he would make some of the calls that day so I wrote down the number for him. Out of what had become a habit, I dialed and the call went through at 9:09 a.m.
Luck of the draw
Within an hour, Laurie at the Washington County EMS office called back to ask if we any COVID symptoms. Since we didn’t, could we be at the fairgrounds at 2 p.m.? I said we could. She instructed us to wear short sleeves, bring identification and be on time.
Several thousand people were waiting for a call like that. Why we received it, we don’t know. We were lucky and just in case our luck continued, we bought a lottery ticket on the multi-million lottery on the way home.
But I digress.
We dropped what we were doing. With a tad of trepidation left for the 50-mile one-way trip an hour and a half early in case we ran into roadwork or needed to make a pit stop.
Although thick fog had settled over Texas State Highway 237, a two-lane highway that twists and turns, it was wide open except for one dawdling out-of-state driver. We speculated he might be looking for an address associated with the upcoming winter antique show.
When we hit Hwy. 290 at Burton, it was smooth sailing at 70 mph until we turned north on Hwy. 36 for a short distance.
We sometimes get lost in Brenham. In fact, it’s a longstanding joke between us. Last winter, we’d made a scenic tour of the city looking for the fairgrounds where a massive book sale was being staged.
This time we knew exactly where we were going.
On Blue Bell Road West, an arrow on a big flashing sign indicated where we should turn. We immediately turned again, this time into a back entrance at the Washington County Fairgrounds.
We admitted we were early when two female team members greeted us cordially. They said not to worry but suggested we turn our heater and seat warmers down or off. That warmth might affect our body temperatures, which were to be taken shortly. They also told me to remove my ball cap and my husband to take off his Stetson. Did we have our photo identification handy?
A team member with a tablet checked our driver’s licenses to ensure we were on the list.
Next, a medical staffer took our temperatures. When I asked if I could take his picture, he just laughed and nodded.
Another team member put a splash of blue on our windshield to indicate we had been processed. Then we were handed two clipboards and pens to fill out the two pages of paperwork.
Then we entered what appeared to be a maze that went up and down the hill. Team members stood at every turn signaling where we should go next.
At the end of the maze, a female team member stepped forward to see if we needed help to complete our paperwork. Then she directed us to pull over behind two other vehicles to fill in the blanks on the two sheets.
When we were done, we followed her instructions and turned on our left blinker. She motioned for us to join the mainstream heading up the hill to the old partially covered pavilion where the shots were being given.
It was a beehive of activity. A team member took our clipboards, flipping through our responses to ensure everything was in order.
Then the medical director stepped forward to answer our questions. He explained that although the first dose wouldn’t provide much protection for several weeks, persons who had received their first shots rarely if ever had to be hospitalized if they got COVID.
The smiling medical pro who administered my vaccination didn’t mind having her photo taken. The inoculation didn’t hurt a bit and Emil had no discomfort either.
Another female team member handed us our cards, plus an information handout. She said we’d get a call to confirm our return date in February. Meanwhile, a hand reached in and put a yellow sticky note on the inside of our windshield.
It was time to put the truck in drive and get moving again.
We followed another team member’s hand signal to line up behind a car on the right side of the last two-lane procession. We were informed that we’d be released at the time written on the sticky note unless we were experiencing side effects.
At 2:03 p.m., recovery area team members confirmed we were fine, so we headed toward the exit. A Washington County Sheriff’s Department officer saluted us as we pulled out.
Mission accomplished! We’d received our COVID shot in a remarkably smooth process lasting 37 minutes.
That evening as we sat outdoors at sunset visiting, we agreed that it had been a very successful day, plus we’d had fun.
Then we looked at each other and laughed.
Clearly, it is time that we go out a little more. The impact of our prolonged COVID isolation might be getting to us.
Oh, what about that splat of blue ink on our windshield? We aren’t going to wash it off just yet. It’s sort of a COVID status symbol; we have been (partially) vaccinated!
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Only you could turn a mundane experience into a white-knuckled, gripping saga!
But, you must consider the national situation and then it makes sense. This WAS a big deal…
On 6 Jan, Garry & I followed a similar but considerably downsized experience. Ours was indoors (County Health offices) which is more fitting than a drive-thru when you consider the ambient outside temperature was 12 degrees.
But, like your own experience, we were met with courtesy and organization. The only noticeable difference was that we had to remain in the parking lot for 30 minutes instead of the usual 15 minutes. It seems that my allergic reaction to Mangos (documented in the 1970’s when we lived in Puerto Rico) put me on a special ‘watch list’.
I must say, I’m quite envious of your Blue Blob on the windshield, we weren’t offered that option.
I’d like to say that the inoculations were the high light of the day, but they were not. The rest of the day was spent in front of our TV watching the unthinkable unfold on the screen. The ‘national situation’ had just blossomed into everyone’s living room.
Like I said at the end of the post, Jeanie, I do think we may need to get more, LOL, but we did witness a great organization feat! I’m very glad to hear that more people got their shots this week. Step by step, little by little, we’ll build up that herd immunity. Do you get your second shot next week?
We have an appointment on 6 Feb. But, it has been reported that the “well has run dry”….when we were being punctured on 6 Jan, we were told the promised 8,000 doses was pared down to 900. Fingers crossed that the supply chain has been opened up, but it is likely our 6 Feb date will be postponed.
Hope all goes well!
You are both so blessed to have received your first shots. Amazing.
Yes, we do feel blessed, Gesine, and are encouraged that more vaccine is becoming available in Central Texas for our friends and neighbors like you.
Bill and I felt so lucky to get our first shots (Pfizer) last weekend. So looking forward to being able to venture out a little more without so much worry. Now, we just have to stay safe until two weeks after the second shot when immunity reaches its peak.
Glad to hear that you and Bill have your first shots, as well. It will, indeed, be pleasant to feel a little freer to leave our homes without constantly worrying about COVID, although I understand we will still need to stay vigilant. Thanks for writing, Bev!
Elaine, that is a very good, step by step, report of an important event. We, Mary and I, also got our first Moderna shot on January 21, the day after inauguration, from our UT Physician nurse about a mile from our home in the Texas Medical Center (Houston). It was uneventful, although we waited half an hour after the shot before we could leave, since Mary had had a reaction some 20 years earlier from an unrelated allergy. We return on February 22 for the second dose. We experienced no pain or reaction and feel blessed to have started the two shot procedure.
It’s encouraging that the medical professionals administering the shots are listening to patients like Mary who have had an unrelated allergy reaction in the past. I don’t know about you and Mary, but the last 15 minutes went by in a big hurry! I think that’s called relief. We’re looking forward to our return trip to Brenham to get the second shot later this month.
Susie and I had an equally great experience in Brenham. Amazingly efficient and everyone was Texas friendly. No, the vaccines aren’t perfect, but they are very, very good. That’s good enough! I just hope there will soon be enough doses for everyone who wants one. And I hope that’s the vast, vast majority of Americans.
We were floored not only by the organization for delivery of the Covid vaccine in Brenham, but also by the spirit in which it was delivered. We remarked afterward that the general tone was “Let’s start putting this pandemic in its place.” We are encouraged that more vaccine seems to be available, but we also hope, as you and Susie do, that the vast majority of Americans and others on our planet will get the shots. Thanks for writing, Larry.
Hello my friend from afar! I am truly so happy for you and Emil! You are the first people I actually know to of received your first Covid shots and although the process was a feat in of itself, it still sounds very calm and orderly and just like a branding day, the “blue” blob on the windshield, (or streak down a calf) represents that step is done!!😉
I hope things progress over this way soon, no idea where I would be on the list as I gladly would give up my arm to those who need it ahead of me, but also hope I’m not last. You are in our continued prayers to stay well and hope your next Covid shots go equally well for you both!
Hugs from Pirmez Creek, AB!
LOL, Deb, I do believe you have come up with the perfect analogy: the Washington County hub’s vaccination program was as well organized as a branding day! I remember that positive, almost festive atmosphere on branding day, too. Thanks for the smile.
Seriously though, we are hopeful that Canada and rural Alberta, in particular, will soon have Covid vaccinations available to the average citizen, especially those with chronic health issues, plus people most vulnerable over 65.
Thanks for writing, Deb. Hope you are not shoveling too much snow this winter!
Your story was waiting patiently when we returned from our first vaccination of COVID this morning. Your experience was similar to ours down to the blue ink on the windshield! One difference was that our wait time after injection was inside a huge pavilion because of sub-freezing temperatures outdoors. We’ve just ordered a large supply of pizza for the vaccinators and support staff to show our appreciation for their organizational skill and friendliness. Very grateful! Back for the second dose on February 29.
We share your feelings of gratitude, Gus! Happy to hear that you had a good experience getting your first vaccinations this morning. I can certainly see why waiting in a huge indoor pavilion was preferable to sitting in your cars before you were released! It’s a wonderful gesture to send pizza to those on the front line who are delivering your Covid defense. I’m going to look into that! I appreciate you sharing your up-to-the-minute experience.
Lovely to read your story Elaine, sounds like a great set up. The average person here may need to, wait till September. I won’t be in that lineup. I am so grateful for my health. I am hoping this does not change travel much, like having a mandatory shot to get on an airplane; it is against a person’s human rights, ❤️
Dawn, we hope and pray that the situation in Canada changes drastically so all those who wish to be vaccinated can receive the shots. You must be hankering to hit the road! The time will come, my friend. Unfortunately, there’s no timetable, but it will come. At least when it does there will be lots of best practices on how to do it fast and efficiently. Hugs!
I am still on the “Thank you for being patient ” list with Healthmart. I pray my experience will be as trouble-free as yours and Jeanie’s!
Brenda, we hope so, too. The more Covid shots that are administered, the smoother the process should be. Fayette County’s Emergency Management Coordinator advised us during his KVLG/KBUK radio interviews to get our names on as many lists as possible, so if you hear of other options, it’s worth making that contact. Let us know how it goes and thanks for writing!
We received our vaccines at the Brenham sub hub the day before–from two policemen! It did feel like winning the lottery.
Hopefully, many more local people will report getting their vaccinations by this time next week!
I would never take the vaccine. In fact, you can’t call the Moderna or Pfizer “shot” a vaccine. It was not created as a vaccine, it’s a gene therapy. This type of “shot” “mRNA has been in development for many years for other so called viruses, but researchers always abandoned them because of the damaging and deadly side affects in test animals.
I understand if you choose not post this comment but I wanted to share because you asked your readers if they would take the shot. If you would like more info on the sources I have read, I would be happy to provide them. Best wishes.
Linda, yes, I did ask because I realize that taking these shots is a personal decision. Thank you for sharing your position. Each of us has to chart his/her own course in the matter. Best wishes to you, too!
You are so lucky to have such a great experience getting your shot. Canada is so far behind the eight ball that at this point only one per cent has been vaccinated. No one seems to know anything about when we are getting more. So disappointed.
Janice, hope that Canada’s program is rolled out sooner rather than later. I know you are ready!
What a coincidence! I had my first Covid vaccine shot today!! I had registered for the Covid vaccine about a month ago with St. Mark’s Medical Center in La Grange. Just yesterday, I received a phone call from St. Mark’s and a woman who asked my name and age, then asked if I wanted the vaccine. Of course I said, “YES!” She told me to be at the hospital at 9:55 this morning to fill out papers and I would get my vaccine. Well, I was excited and didn’t sleep too well last night. Don’t know why?? Everything went as planned and I got my vaccine and will also get the second one in February. No, this shot hurt less than a flu shot. The trick is to let your arm loose by your side and let it hang; don’t freeze up! There were only 2 elderly couples ahead of me and no one behind me. If you are called, go get the vaccine. It’s good for the county, state and country as well as yourself.
Barbara, so glad that your name worked its way to the top of the list at St. Mark’s and that the experience was reassuring. We had no discomfort and hope you don’t either. It is a relief to have had the shot, isn’t it?
Wonderful to hear St. Marks has shots! How exciting! As usual, Elaine, great storytelling.
Yes, it is great that St. Mark’s is offering shots because there’s a lot of people who can’t drive to Brenham, but are fine with going as far as the local hospital. Little by little! Thanks, Marie!
Last Thursday morning I received a phone call from my daughter-in-law asking if we wanted to volunteer at the Alamodome on Saturday helping with the vaccinations and we would get a vaccine for the six hours of volunteer work. We immediately said “yes” since we are under 65 and would probably not get a chance until the end of the summer. Within 10 minutes she called back asking if I could volunteer that day! Having a flexible schedule, I did. I registered people who had just received their first shot for a time slot to get their second shot. I found out later that you can go to the Texas Disaster Relief website to register to volunteer. I would think there are more cities other than San Antonio that are offering this.
Thanks for volunteering, Debbie. I’m sure you were a great help in putting people at ease. What a good program! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Hi Elaine. I really enjoyed reading your story about your and Emil’s immunization adventure! I love your writing and the photos/illustrations bring your short stories to life!! My mother concurred she had the same experience Tuesday in Brenham after I forwarded her your story.
My sister took her, so all I had heard was there were a lot of people and it was very well-organized and she did just have to wait 15 min. She was thrilled to get that call after being on 5 lists. And we’re all thrilled for her!!
I wish I was 65!!!
Hello Rhonda! It’s great to hear that your Mom had a similar positive experience in Brenham when she got her first COVID shot. Now when she is contacted by representatives scheduling folks on the other four lists she can smile and say, “Been there, done that!” Thanks for writing.
What’s funny is y’all two actually talked about your similar experiences at Cathy’s this week.
Yes, that pretty lady is My Mom!!
She found out it was “Elaine” afterwards. Lol
Small world…I mean small county!
Rhonda, that is so funny! Even in a small county, what are the odds? But now you can tell your Mom that when I come to interview her, I wont’ be a stranger. After all, we’ve already had a visit!
Great accounting! Perfect timing! We are to get our first vaccine tomorrow AM in Columbus.
It was encouraging to read your blog and the comments that followed. Thank you for covering this ~ !
So today is the big day? Good! I didn’t realize that COVID shots were being administered on Saturday in some places. That is good news. I hope you can report as positive an experience as we had in Brenham. Take care!
I’m glad you and Emil got taken care of so quickly. (And thanks for telling us it didn’t hurt!)
I’m not 65 yet, so I guess it’ll be a while until I can get mine. I’m not in a panic because I mostly stay isolated on the farm. I do curbside pickup at HEB, get Wal-Mart deliveries of household stuff, and make most of my other purchases online. For a while, I was even using Home Chef for meals. That was kind of fun. I’m not into cooking all that much, but their meal plan encouraged to try some really delcious recipes. I highlly recommend them.
In case you’re interested, this article explains why you should continue to wear a mask after getting vaccinated: https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2021/01/20/3-reasons-why-you-should-continue-wearing-a-mask-after-getting-the-covid-19-vaccine/
Thanks for the interesting link, Liz. Yes, we will continue to wear masks, social distance and be vigilant even when we’ve had both shots. Perhaps as more people receive their COVID shots the ‘herd immunity’ will build up. It doesn’t appear that there’s any short-term solution to eliminating COVID. It is great to have options like curbside pickup, online ordering, etc. I haven’t tried a meal service yet, but if I run out of meal ideas, I’ll take a look at that too. I’ve read that the way we used to shop in malls, big box stores, etc. will be a thing of the past.
You are a gifted writer. I am so happy you and Emil have the vaccine; your story was so interesting. I am going to share so other people know about where to get the vaccine.
Thanks for your comments, Jo Lynn. I hope our friends and neighbors who haven’t had their COVID shots yet will feel reassured that it’s going to happen!
We had a great experience last Tuesday. We’re set for our second dose in February. Thank goodness things are going well at least for our part of TX.
Mary Lou, glad to hear that you, too, had a positive experience in getting your shot. More locals were called back to come to St. Mark’s Medical Center for their inoculations and the Brenham hub is taking online registrations starting this morning at http://www.localevent.info. This is good news!