Riverside Senior Living resident Rose Miller received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and was grateful to get it.

“This was exciting. I haven’t been able to sleep, I’ve been so excited about getting it,” Miller said.

Miller, 92, was the first of 73 residents at Riverside to receive the vaccine on Wednesday morning. She said being vaccinated against COVID-19 will provide her with a sense of security, even if life doesn’t go “back to normal” anytime soon.

“I think I feel safe, you know, just even around here,” she said. “In case somebody else hasn’t been vaccinated, that I won’t be susceptible to getting it, so I’ll just be more at ease. … Every day I wonder when I get up, do I feel alright?”

Donna and Bernard Malkmus were the second and third Riverside residents to receive COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday.

“Did you realize that it’s 10 months today since we were locked down? Ten months today,” said Donna Malkmus, 88. “So this has been a while coming.”

Malkmus said prior to receiving the vaccine, she was worried about spreading the virus to others.

“I didn’t want to have the thought that I might be responsible for a family member or our extended family here (getting infected), because this place is family,” she said.

Malkmus said seeing loved ones less frequently due to COVID-19 restrictions has been hard. She and her husband moved into Riverside Senior Living in December 2019, shortly before the pandemic began.

“That’s been tough, but they have done so much to try to make arrangements so we can see … limited visitors. They’ve done so much to keep our morale up, keep us safe,” she said.

Miller, who has lived at Riverside Senior Living for about four years, said she didn’t have any reservations about receiving the vaccine.

“I just wanted to get it,” she said.

All of Riverside’s 73 residents requested to receive their first of two vaccine doses Wednesday, according to activity director Lisa Burns. All employees who wanted the vaccine were also able to receive it. Burns said only about 5% of employees did not want to receive the vaccine.  

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, residents in long-term care facilities such as Riverside Senior Living are part of Phase 1A, the first vaccine group, and started receiving vaccines through the Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program the week of Dec. 28.

Last week, the ADPH announced the availability of vaccinations by appointment for people 75 and older and first responders. Those vaccinations begin Monday, although the state's existing supply of the vaccine is inadequate for the eligible population.

According to ADPH, 9,539 long-term care residents and 4,431 employees have contracted the virus since the pandemic began. The greatest proportion of deaths from COVID-19, 78%, has been among those 65 years old or older.

Burns said all vaccine recipients were monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the shot. Payless Pharmacy provided Riverside Senior Living with acetaminophen for pain relief and epinephrine injectors in case a resident had an allergic reaction to the vaccine.

Burns said she’s glad that residents and most staff opted to receive the vaccine. Burns said the average age of residents is 85 to 87, and the community has two 101-year-old residents.

“I’m excited because I’ve seen the toll mentally that it has taken on our residents, not being able to see their families, not being able to get out, to go to lunch, to go to Walmart every week, to interact in such a way with the community,” Burns said. "We were very proud of our residents for wanting to take this step and be part of the solution."

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cassie.kuhn@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2469. Twitter @ DD_CassieKuhn.

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