Gov. Ivey visits community vaccine clinic to applaud effort

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By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was welcomed to EAMC’s vaccination clinic Tuesday to tour the operation and witness Auburn University students receive their COVID-19 vaccine. 

The vaccine clinic is a partnership between EAMC, the city of Auburn, the city of Opelika and Lee County EMA and, as of this week, has provided more than 80,000 vaccines. 

“Ya’ll … what a difference a year makes,” Ivey said. “A year ago we were grappling with new terms like social distancing and slowing the spread, and when I look around and see all of you here at the East Alabama Medical Center’s community vaccine clinic, I am so optimistic and so grateful for all of you making this possible for so many people.”

Lee County began administering vaccines on Dec. 15 at the EAMC Education Center, but moved into the facility on Opelika Road (the former Tuesday Morning) on Feb. 1, said Bruce Zartman, vice president of support operations at EAMC. 

Zartman said that the clinic is vaccinating 45 people every fifteen minutes at the clinic. 

“This vaccine is our ticket back to somewhat of a normal life,” Ivey said. “In Alabama, we’re making great strides in terms of our progress with COVID-19. Infection rates and hospitalizations are down, shots are getting in the arms and we’re accomplishing this while achieving the lowest unemployment rate in the southeast and one of the lowest in the country.”

Ivey attributed the successes to Alabama’s ability to come together. 

“Ya’ll call it a community vaccine clinic and for good reason,” she said. “The cities of Auburn and Opelika, along with Lee County EMA, Auburn United Methodist Church and many others have come together as a community. And of course our young folks have been vital to the success of this as well.”

Ivey also contributed some of the success to the work of nursing students at Auburn University, Southern Union and Tuskegee University. 

“So many volunteers are here, all walks of life … so this is truly a community effort to benefit members of the community,” Ivey said.

Ivey said she was “thrilled to death” to watch as Auburn University students, Brandan Belser, Jr. and Caroline Kein, received their vaccinations and she handed each a vaccination sticker. 

“As the vaccines continue proving that they are key to helping us reduce the spread of this virus, it its so important for us to continue encouraging our young folks to get their shots,” she said. “So, I am proud that Caroline and Brandon are willing to be models for their fellow students and look like they are ready to check this off the list.”

Belser Jr. received his second dose Tuesday. 

“I feel spectacular,” he said. “I’m really glad we got to have this opportunity and I’m really excited to represent the 30,000 Auburn students in doing so.”

While Belser Jr. may not have a severe reaction should he contract COVID-19, he said he wanted to receive his vaccination out of empathy for others. 

Kein, on the other hand, was receiving her first shot, and she said that she was encouraged by the amount of people receiving doses of the vaccine. 

“It just was an honor to be able to get my vaccine with Kay Ivey, the governor of Alabama, when she’s worked so hard to get us back to some sense of normalcy and just to show these vaccines are available to us.”

To anyone who is debating whether or not to receive a vaccine, Ivey recommended they think about a possible alternative — being placed on a ventilator. 

“That’s a whole lot easier to get a shot than being on a ventilator,” she said. 

Ivey said that the state is now receiving a full supply of vaccine, which will help the vaccination rates as they compare to the rest of the country. 

“It’s impressive that so many volunteers, both students and adults alike can come out,” Ivey said. “… So this is a great way for citizens to help citizens and we’re good about that in Alabama. Proud to be your governor.”

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