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Community embraces COVID-19 Vaccines


There was something touching and poignant on this January morning where an older segment of this community awaited their first Pfizer vaccine inoculations in the long fight with the COVID-19 health crisis.

You could see the eagerness in their eyes.

A touch of trepidation, too.

Anne and Bob Matlack went about registering at the Rehabilitation Center on the backside of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Jesse Byrd was there. And Rudolph and Ginny Singleton, Bo Thorp and Buzz Lloyd among them.

“Pride is a great way to sum it up,” Brian Pearce says about January 5, 2021, when men and women over the age of 75 from this community came with such anticipation of their first of what will be two Pfizer vaccines in hopes of protecting themselves from the coronavirus that has infected so many in this community and taken the lives of others.

This center was manned by nurses and pharmacists and health care personnel with vaccines near, and all under the watchful eyes of Mike Nagowski, chief executive officer for the Cape Fear Valley Health System, and Pearce, the 47-year-old vice president of Facilities and Emergency Management.

You were not just a number on this day.

You mattered, and no matter who you were or the color of your skin or your station in life. You mattered, and you were treated by all of these health care givers like family of their own. You were treated with dignity. You were treated with respect. You were treated with caring ways.

If you are 75 years of age and older, health officials worldwide will tell you that you are the most vulnerable in this COVID-19 health pandemic that has affected more than 23 million in the United States alone since March of 2020 and resulted in more than 394,000 deaths. There are more than 675,000 cases in North Carolina, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, with more than 8,000 deaths. There are more than 17,500 cases in Cumberland County, according to the state, with more than 150 deaths.

On The Cutting Edge

Mike Nagowski said Cape Fear Valley Health is on the cutting edge when it comes to administering vaccines, and so does Pearce.

“As we see so many negative things around us recently, I am proud of the fact that our hospital, the one where I was born, leads in the race in vaccine development by conducting clinical trials on the COVID-19 vaccine,” Pearce said about the vaccine that has been offered to all health care workers in the community and now is inoculating those age 65 and older. “I am proud that our health system invested in equipment and capabilities so that our hospital was one of the first in the nation to receive the vaccine. I am proud that our workforce has come together to set up and staff a vaccine clinic that inoculates over 1,000 of our community members each day, while still treating all of the patients in our community who are sick, including over 100 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19.”

More than 50 health care employees at Cape Fear Valley Health, Pearce says, are volunteering at the Rehabilitation Center.

“Most of our nurses and physicians are busy treating the surge of patients due to the pandemic, so pharmacist and paramedics are helping to administer the vaccine, along with people from almost every aspect of the health system helping to coordinate, register and ensure that our community members receive the vaccine in the quickest and safest manner possible,” he said. "I am proud of my neighbors who support the health system by participating in clinical trials and eagerly following medical advice to receive the vaccine, so that we can reduce the numbers of people who are being hospitalized by COVID-19.”

Pearce and Nagowski share that pride with Dr. Jennifer Green, director of the Cumberland County Health Department that is doing its part, too, including 1,972 residents age 65 and older who received inoculations on Jan. 15-16 at the Crown Expo off U.S. 301.

“We are doing a big push to get vaccine in the arms of as many of our elderly citizens and health care workers as possible in the next two weeks,” Green said in a news release. “We are going to increase staffing levels at our drive-thru clinic to create shorter lines and decrease wait times. We are fortunate to have a facility like the Crown Expo Center, where we can conduct a drive-thru clinic.”

Vaccine Dates And Times

So, if you are age 65 and older, you can receive a COVID-19 inoculation on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to the Cumberland County Health Department website. And you can schedule an appointment for today from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Vaccines also are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 23. For appointment assistance and further information, visit co.cumberland.nc.us/covid19vaccine or call 910-678-7657.

Vaccines for age 65 and older are scheduled today through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rehabilitation Center Auditorium at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center, and here is some more good news.

“We are working on opening a new vaccine clinic this week at Health Pavilion North,” Pearce said. “We are still doing walk-ins, but due to increased demand as we open phases, pre-scheduling is recommended.”

For scheduling and more information, visit www.capefearvalley.com/covid19


Brian Pearce

I still see Brian Pearce and the pride on his face on Jan. 5, when folks to include Anne and Bob Matlack, Jesse Byrd, Ginny and Rudolph Singleton, Bo Thorp and Buzz Lloyd were at the Rehabilitation Center of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center awaiting their Pfizer vaccines.

“I am proud of the smiles and positive comments we receive while our community members are patiently waiting to receive the vaccine,” Pearce said. “And I am proud that our community and health system have come together so that we will beat COVID-19.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961