LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - On Wednesday, the COVID-19 vaccine reached some of the Midlands’ most vulnerable residents after what many residents in long-term care facilities have called a difficult 10 months.
“I’m thrilled,” said Nora Schafer, a Wellmore of Lexington long-term care resident. “I think it’s about time they kept promising us because life has been absolutely miserable. You can’t do anything, go anywhere.”
Wellmore of Lexington is a retirement community with long-term care, rehab, assisted living, and independent living. It’s one of the first facilities in the Midlands to begin vaccinations after CVS launched the vaccination program in South Carolina on Monday.
The director of Wellmore, Crystal Butcher, said they are working to administer about 150 Moderna vaccines Wednesday to their long-term care and rehab residents, as well as their staff.
Nora was one of the first long-term care residents to get the vaccine with her husband, Ulrich Schafer, by her side.
“I thought it was going to be either tomorrow or the day after, but when they said this morning, I said, ‘Good show! Jolly hockey sticks!’ as they say!” Nora said.
Nora and Ulrich, also known as Ulli, said they’ve been married for 54 years, but they had to spend the last nine months apart, only getting to see each other through Facetime.
“In one simple word, it’s been terrible,” Ulli said, “but you need to keep everyone safe. That I do understand.”
They said it’s the longest they had ever been apart until Ulli was allowed to start visiting again last month, but they said they hope the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel for things getting back to normal.
Butcher said they will move towards vaccinating their assisted living and independent facility residents in the next few weeks.
“We are doing a two-step clinic,” Butcher said. “Today is going to be our long-term care and rehab staff and residents and later, it will be our assisted living and independents.”
She said in total they have about 200 residents who will get the vaccine over the next few weeks, and the response from the residents and families has been one of excitement.
“We had some that were ecstatic,” Butcher said. “We didn’t have to get past would you like, and they were like, ‘Oh absolutely! Where do I sign?’ So yes, they were very excited about it!”
The excitement was something shared by the staff getting vaccinated on Wednesday.
“The vaccine is the first step to being able to normalize life again,” said Wellmore of Lexington Social Director Justina Pilkonis. “Being able to get families in here and being able to take our residents out and make sure they are safe, that’s the most important thing.”
Wellmore officials said they began allowing compassionate care visits in the last few months, which allowed for family visitation for residents with some restrictions staying in place.
They said at this time they don’t have a timeline for when things might become more open.