BLUEFIELD – Hundreds of people were waiting at the Brushfork National Guard Armory's gates Thursday morning for a mass vaccination event to get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Vehicles were lined up as far back as U.S. Route 52 and on Airport Road as preparations for the vaccinations were completed. Vaccinations were scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., and the gates were opened at about 8:38 a.m. Vaccinations are scheduled to continue until 3 p.m.
County Health Officer Dr. Richard Steven Stefancic spoke about the preparations just before the gates opened. People were being given a number as they arrived so organizers would know how many had arrived and their position in line.
"We're working through the state and multiple agencies throughout the county and community. That includes fire, EMS and law enforcement. We have the Mercer County Sheriff's Office and the West Virginia State Police present," Stefancic said. "We have a local representative from the Department of Homeland Security. We have the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management."
A system was set in place to help manage the traffic in the armory's large parking lot.
"The flow of traffic will come in. We're going to try clear the road as quickly and easily as possible and use the parking lot to our advantage," Stefancic said. "From the law enforcement has graciously assisted us with their DUI checkpoint gear to control the flow of traffic and stage people. Individuals will come around the building, they will get registered, make sure anything they need to know about the vaccine prior to getting vaccinated gets shared. And then any questions are answered and any discussions that need to be had are had."
People will come around to the vaccination site, then be observed for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure they do not have any adverse reactions, he said.
"The key is we want to make sure we get as many vaccinated as safely as possible," Stefancic said. "And we're going to do that as safely as we can."
Brenda Donithan, administrator of the Mercer County Health Department, said there were "almost 600" doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Russell Root, 80, of Athens was the first person to arrive. He said that he had been waiting since about 4:30 a.m.
Root had tried to get vaccinated Monday at the Mercer County Health Department, but was unable to get one due to the large crowd.
"It's a lot better today," he said. "I like it a lot better."
"It means a lot to me," Root said about getting his first dose of vaccine. "I just hope this helps a lot of people."
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