The first COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Athens County in December, making the county one of the first in the state to implement vaccinations.

OhioHealth O’Bleness was selected as one of 10 hospitals in the state to receive the first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. On Dec. 18, Rachel Copper, RN, became the first person in Athens County to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at 8 a.m.

“I didn’t even feel the needle,” Cooper said, who works in the OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital Birth Center. Cooper, like other eligible employees of OhioHealth, received an email two weeks prior with sign-up information.

In December the vaccine was administered to only front-line workers and those in long-term care facilities.

Athens County EMS Chief Rick Ballens received the vaccine a few days before Christmas as a clinic hosted by the Athens City-County Health Department.

“I’m really impressed, they’ve done a good job,” Callbes said. “It’s an assembly line. You have enough people to handle overflow and it’s a pretty painless process. Everything from the medication administration to waiting afterward. It’s obvious that they know what they are doing.”

After receiving the vaccine, Callebs and other recipients were asked to wait for 15 minutes to monitor for any potential allergic reactions. According to the trials and the current roll-out of the vaccine, reactions occur in similar numbers to that of the standard flu shot.

“A very small percentage (of the population) will have a reaction. It’s not a reason to not get it,” Callebs said.

The Health Department received 500 total does of the Moderna vaccine in late December, 190 of which were immediately given to Appalachian Behavioral Healthcare, a psychiatric hospital for mentally ill adults in southeast Ohio.

Moderna’s vaccine was granted emergency use authorization on Dec. 18 by the Food and Drug Administration and has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19-related illness in patients.

Callebs encouraged EMS workers to get vaccinated as soon as they were able. According to Callebs, of the 68 people employed by Athens County EMS, a little over 40 people have expressed interest in signing up for the vaccine.

“I’m happy with that number,” Callebs said.

Callebs stated that he was pleased to qualify for the vaccine so early.

“I’m tickled to death that we were able to be first in line for this,” he said. “It takes a lot off my mind as an EMS chief that we’ve got a layer of protection that was not previously available.”

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