Robert and Beulah Fenbert became the first of 100 Rutherford County residents to receive the free Moderna COVID-19 vaccine administered by MTSU School of Nursing students in Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building — one of the Rutherford County Health Department’s newest sites.
The Smyrna, Tennessee, seniors found themselves at the front of the line to receive the vaccine Thursday, Feb. 25, after last week’s snow and ice storm canceled their original appointment.
The MTSU School of Nursing is partnering with the county health department to administer the shots to eligible, pre-screened residents on Thursdays and Saturdays at the nursing building, 610 Champion Way. To find the site and nearby parking, go here.
“It’s a big day today and Saturday will be an even bigger day,” said Jenny Sauls, director of the School of Nursing.
The MTSU site has 375 eligible city and county residents registered for Saturday’s session.
Appointments are required and only persons meeting current state protocols for eligibility will be permitted to use the MTSU vaccination center.
Eligibility screening and appointment scheduling will be conducted by the Tennessee Department of Health, using the same protocols currently in place at the State Farm vaccination site off Memorial Boulevard. Rutherford County is now vaccinating individuals in the 1a1, 1a2, and 1b risk phases as well as individuals ages 65 and older.
Visit https://health.rutherfordcountytn.gov/testing.html for updated information on COVID-19 testing and vaccination locations. Eligible persons may request an appointment by calling the Rutherford County COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center at 615-898-7997 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Alternatively, they can call the state scheduling center at 866-442-5301 or complete a form online at https://vaccinate.tn.gov.
Rick Chapman, Health Services director, said part of the process involves rescheduling Thursday’s 100 community residents and Saturday’s 350 for their second Moderna vaccine about three weeks after the first dose.
Pharmacist Tabby Ragland was on hand “to monitor the vaccine, get it out of the fridge when needed and give to people who drawing up the dosages in the syringes.
“There’s a lot of monitoring that goes into this,” Ragland said. Once the vaccine dose comes out of the freezer, it must sit at room temperature 15 minutes. Once punctured, the Moderna dosage will last only six hours “or it’s wasted.”
“We are trying to be super careful,” she said. “We time it as to when the patients are here, so we do not waste it.”
For Health Promotion Director Lisa Schrader, it “was an encouraging event. There was a very real sense of hope that you could feel and a level of excitement and optimism that we are making progress toward ending the restrictions caused by the pandemic.”
The vaccine reaches the community
Beulah Fenbert said she and her husband have “been through too much to have to worry about the COVID. I can’t wait to get the second one (dose). We’ve been working on it awhile.”
They were prompted to get the vaccine because Robert “didn’t want to catch COVID-19” and his wife “can’t breathe well.” So, it’s “very important,” he added. “I’m glad to finally be able to get it. … Once they get it to the pharmacies where people are used to getting their flu shots, it will be easier (to get appointments).”
Angela Price, 72, originally from Rogersville, Tennessee, now living in Murfreesboro said she’s “excited and ready for this (coronavirus pandemic) to be over, to get back to some kind of normalcy, hopefully.”
“I think it’s very important, not only for me, but for everyone else, too,” Price said. “I’m helping me and I’m helping someone else.” She added that she was finally able to get the vaccine after her husband had received both of his doses.
Bob Batcheller, 45, will be a volunteer Saturday and in the future, requiring him to get vaccinated. Two hours later, he had experienced no side effects.
“I have no concerns about the vaccine,” said Batcheller, a co-owner of nearby Textbook Brokers with his brother, Jimmy Batcheller, and husband of nursing faculty member Melissa Palicka.
Jimmy Batcheller praised the nursing students, faculty and staff “for doing a great job. They’ve put in a lot of time.
Murfreesboro business owner and MTSU alumna Susan Grear will be among the 300-plus receiving the vaccine Saturday. A friend suggested she register for the MTSU site.
“My main concern is having a reaction,” said Grear, who owns The Write Impression in the downtown square area. “I have not had COVID. None of my employees has had it, and we’ve been in the store every day except the six weeks (March and April 2020) when everyone was shut down. We’ve all been careful and still wear masks and will continue to do so until these ends.”
Sauls said the School of Nursing is “trying to get students involved as much as possible,” she said.
On the MTSU site’s first day, junior nursing student Ashley DiStefano of Gallatin, Tennessee, was among 10 helping provide shots and 10 others helping with registration.
“Honestly, it has been a great experience,” said DiStefano, 21, who is in her second semester in the program. “Giving the vaccine is the new wave of the future — getting people out in the community with a healthier population. We’re eager to get the clinic going, it’s hands-on experience and promoting good health overall.”
DiStefano said she personally feels safe, adding they’ve “gone over protocols and a lot of safety measures in place.”
Reaching the MTSU community next
MTSU Health Services is also in the beginning stages of seeking clearance to become a vaccination site specific to MTSU faculty, staff, and students, Chapman said.
Additional information will be announced in the coming weeks as those plans are solidified. Chapman said those in the campus community should watch their MTSU emails for more details.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)