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.

The line we joined upon entering the fairgrounds was no longer than those we routinely encounter at a major Houston intersection when a light turns red.

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?

No problem!

A team member with a tablet checked our driver’s licenses to ensure we were on the list.

Emil said he could relax once our telephone registration had been verified.

Next, a medical staffer took our temperatures. When I asked if I could take his picture, he just laughed and nodded.

Our temperatures were normal. We’d passed that test!

With the blue mark on our windshield, we were set for the next station in the procession.

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.

At this point, only two pages of paperwork stood between us and the first doses of the Moderna vaccine.

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.

A pattern of sawhorses, flagging tape and plastic barrels made perfect sense to those working at the fairgrounds. We simply followed the friendly hand signals from the sizable team directing traffic. As you will note, there was no traffic backup.

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.

The shots were administered while we stayed in our vehicles.

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 shot didn’t hurt – honest!

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.

A sticky note on our windshield indicated our release time.

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.

We were treated with great respect by a team of efficient professionals who took pride in providing our COVID vaccinations. We are very grateful!

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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Elaine Thomas
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