The Karsh Alumni and Visitors Center has taken on a new role during the pandemic, serving as a center for COVID-19 vaccinations.
On Jan. 6, Duke Health began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to Durham residents over the age of 75, an initiative that began after 70% of Duke Health employees received the vaccine.
Karsh has so far vaccinated 15,108 patients, wrote Gail Shulby, co-chair of Duke University Health System Universal Flu Vaccination & COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Work Groups, in an email.
“I think it is great to see the smiles of the patients—underneath their mask—when they receive their vaccine,” wrote Aerial Kendrick, a volunteer vaccinator and second-year master of biomedical sciences student, in an email. “You can always tell by their cheeks and eyes. The patients are extremely grateful to receive the vaccine, but I am just as grateful to have the opportunity to administer it to them.”
Roy Cuttino was the first patient to receive the COVID-19 vaccine under phase 1B—which includes Durham residents 75 and older—at Karsh.
“My experience at the Karsh Alumni Center was excellent,” Cuttino wrote in an email. “My appointment was on time, the personnel was friendly, the process was explained to me, and I was scheduled for my follow up vaccination prior to leaving.”
Cuttino wrote that he decided to receive the COVID-19 vaccine not only to protect himself but also to help slow the spread of the virus and reduce hospitalization and deaths.
Cuttino has received both doses of the vaccine and wrote that he feels “great.”
“I have little to no side effects and just knowing that my protection is at 95% is great,” he wrote. “However, I am continuing to practice all the things to prevent the spread, including wearing a mask, social distancing, washing my hands, etc.”
As of Feb. 10, the COVID-19 vaccine is now being offered at no cost to people of ages 65 and older.
Kendrick wrote that the clinic is very busy and that the patients and staff are “incredible.” She added that she loves to hear the stories of the patients she vaccinates and what they look forward to doing after the pandemic.
“When I think about just how many people have been affected, I am so thankful and grateful to be helping,” she wrote. “I think we need a light at the end of the tunnel or hope, and this was a small way I could help the community.”
When Duke Health sent an email asking for volunteers for the vaccination effort, Kendrick knew immediately that she wanted to help.
“COVID-19 has impacted so many communities, families, businesses and individuals and I knew I wanted to help fight it,” she wrote. “I myself have had several people close to me diagnosed with COVID or impacted financially by the pandemic, so it is very important to me.”
Vaccinations at Karsh are by appointment only, and people over the age of 65 can add their name to Duke Health’s waiting list to receive the vaccine when supplies are available.
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Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.