NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Excitement filled the air at Pickering Manor this week as residents, caregivers and administrators rolled up their sleeves for the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“This is truly the first breath of hope that we have felt since March,” said Pickering’s executive director Michelle Knobloch as she waited her turn for the vaccine. “This is the best Christmas present ever. I’m hoping this will be the beginning of us returning to some type of normalcy.”

This week every resident received the vaccine with the exception of two who opted against the inoculation.

The vaccine is also being administered to Pickering’s staff in two separate sessions. This week, 66 staff members are being inoculated. The rest will receive the shot in January.

“Historic,” is how one staff member described the moment as she waited for her inoculation.

“This is truly an historic moment,” agreed Knobloch. “This is truly the beginning for us to be able to reopen, restore some semblance of normalcy to our residents and our families and certainly to America.”

The virus has shut down the long term care facility located in the heart of Newtown since last March, relegating family members to window visits, FaceTime or phone calls.

“We cannot allow visitors and we’re trying to manage that the best that we can. But that doesn’t take the place of somebody holding their mom’s hand or kissing her on the cheek. And we know that. But we can’t throw open the doors. We’d be exposing ourselves and our residents.”

The first to be vaccinated at Pickering was Registered Nurse Terry Ziegler.

“They all waited to see if I passed out or had a reaction,” she laughed. “I was a little nervous just like everyone else, but once I got it I was fine.”

As Knobloch’s name was called, she entered the manor’s beautifully-kept front sitting room where frontline clinical staff from Omnicare, the parent company of CVS, were busy administering the vaccine to members of the staff.

“I am not afraid of needles. I am way more afraid of COVID,” she said as she rolled up her sleeve. “No, I’m not afraid of needles. And I’m not afraid of this vaccine,” she said citing the work of scientists and researchers from all over the world who developed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Knobloch didn’t even flinch as she received the shot. “That was nothing. It wasn’t even like a pinch,” she said.

“We’re all excited and our residents and families were very much on board to welcome this as well,” said Knobloch, who proudly displayed her “I got my Covid-19 Vaccine” sticker. “The staff is excited. We’re just all tired and exhausted by this,” she said of the COVID lock down. “So this is truly a breath of fresh air.”

The CVS crew will be back in January to inoculate the rest of the staff and to administer a secondary booster shot.

“We will still need to wear our masks and follow protocols,” said Knobloch. “From what I have read 70 to 75 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated in order for it to be effective. But at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what we got to look forward too.”

According to the state's newly-launched COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, as of Jan. 5th, 2021, 56,571 Bucks County residents have received the partial vaccination.

The vaccine is being administered in two phases - Phase 1A (healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities), Phase 1B (persons 75 years and older and essential frontline workers), Phase 1C (persons ages 65 to 74, persons ages 16 to 64 with chronic health conditions and other essential workers) and Phase 2 (general population).

Once vaccines are available to the general public, CVS and Walgreens will begin offering them in its Pharmacy locations nationwide.

CVS said it expects to be able to administer as many as 20-25 million shots per month

“When that time comes, booking an appointment for your vaccination will be simple and seamless,” according to CVS. “The same digital experience that we created for COVID-19 testing and flu vaccinations will be available to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations, so that you can easily book an appointment and, depending on the vaccine type, the required booster dose as well.”

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