After-school vaccination drive immunizes students

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Mimi Huelster

7th-grader Howard Huelster shows off his vaccination bandage. “[The shot] didn’t really hurt,” said Huelster. “It felt like a pinch.”

This Tuesday after school, a COVID-19 vaccination drive immunized 123 SPA community members. Sponsored by St. Paul Corner Drug and organized by parents and health care workers alike, the drive offered countless students the opportunity to get vaccinated since Pfizer lowered their age guidelines from 16+ to 12+.

“It felt a little nerve-wracking just because I do not like needles,” said sophomore Lily Malloy, who got her first shot at the drive. “It was pretty normal, though… It didn’t hurt that much.”

“The process of getting my shot was super easy,” said sophomore George Peltier. “It was pretty painless, and I’m a baby about needles so that was really nice.”

Not only was the process of getting vaccinated fairly easy, though, but so was the actual organizing of the drive. Behind the scenes were SPA parents Maggie Dayton and Dr. Toni Mowbray-Donahue, an ICU doctor at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Alongside Dayton and Dr. Mowbray-Donahue was Dr. Jena Wirt, a fellow ICU doctor at Abbott, and several volunteers to ensure the entire operation of the drive went as smoothly as possible.

“It really felt like a celebration,” reflected Dr. Mowbray-Donahue. “Students, even those who were apprehensive and a bit nervous, lined up bravely to protect their community, families, teachers, and friends. I was thinking about the students, parents, and teachers finally having the opportunity to take action after more than a year of isolation, fear, anxiety, and sadness. I was excited to hear students making plans for the summer break, which included time with friends and family without worrying about putting themselves or others at risk.”

Dr. Wirt, who has been helping to vaccinate her community with St. Paul Corner Drug for a couple of months now, was very excited to finally be able to vaccinate those under 16.

“It was really exciting to vaccinate younger people and know that this vaccine will protect them from COVID-19 and allow them to be more safe in school and with their family and friends,” said Dr. Wirt. “It was also fun to experience the energy that the young people brought to the clinic and was truly a bright spot in the pandemic.”

While the pandemic has been especially hard for Dr. Mowbray-Donahue and Dr. Wirt, who have both been working in Abbott’s COVID-19 unit for over a year now, they both have found solace in the mounting number of vaccinations, as well as witnessing the resilience of their communities, including SPA.

“As an ICU doctor I have spent the last year caring for many patients that did not survive COVID-19 infection and many more whose lives will be forever affected by poor health after infection,” lamented Dr. Mowbray-Donahue. “It was inspiring to see young healthy people show up to protect themselves, their families, and their community. I can definitely learn a lesson from the optimism and positive energy present in the SPA community.”

“I look forward to not seeing people suffer and die from COVID anymore,” said Dr. Wirt. “The last year has been hard and full of sadness and heartbreak. Secondly, I look forward to my kids safely going to school as they have been out for the entire pandemic. And lastly, I cannot wait to travel the world safely again. I need a vacation!”

Part two of the vaccination drive will be held in three weeks to allow those who received their last dose on Tuesday complete their vaccine series.