Kate Williams misses hugging her children, her grandchildren, and her 97-year-old mother.
The 78-year-old San Francisco resident also wants to get back to work coaching other blind people on how to enter the workforce in her position at the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
“I woke up today and I knew it was a special day,” Williams said shortly after receiving her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. The shot will provide her with a high level of immunity and bring her closer to those things she has been missing since the pandemic started. “I’m just so happy. To have something like this vaccine is a miracle.”
The vaccination hub with Kaiser Permanente and its 5 partners from other health care systems at Moscone Center is 1 of 2 that opened statewide. On February 14, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced the site would close temporarily and will reopen “as supplies increase” but that no existing appointments would be cancelled. When it opened February 5, the site started out giving around 1,500 shots a day and quickly ramped up to over 4,000 a day. It is capable of giving up to 10,000 a day depending on vaccine supply.
“It’s been a wonderful consortium of nurses, leaders, and other professionals to get us up and running,” said Maria Ansari, MD, Kaiser Permanente San Francisco physician in chief. “Everyone has worked together to get our seniors to feel safe to come out of their homes and receive a vaccine. My colleagues and I have seen firsthand and up close the impact of this pandemic and the toll it has taken on our communities. The advent of safe, effective vaccines is giving us hope that we may soon end this pandemic.”
Available appointments can be scheduled on California’s My Turn website for people age 65 and over and for those who have a high chance of exposure to the virus.
Michelle Sharp, Kaiser Permanente National Hospital Operations project manager, said the organization trained and deployed 350 temporary employees to work at the Moscone Center site where shots will be given 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day for approximately the next 3 months, depending on vaccine supply. Door to door each vaccination takes about 30 minutes, including careful observation afterward for any potential side effects.
The emotional impact of helping get the site up and running is heavy, said Sharp, who has 2 children in middle school and who, like everyone else, saw her world change overnight nearly a year ago.
“It brought tears to my eyes when I saw the walls going up for the vaccination area,” Sharp said. “It’s been such a wonderful journey to help build something with such a huge impact on mankind.”
The day the Moscone hub opened, Sharp took a moment to watch as the first patients got their shots.
“You can see the thrill in people’s eyes,” she said. “It’s touching because for most people it’s all so very personal. I have a hard time putting it in words.”
Leon and Linda Ball of Albany, California, both got their shots February 5. They said they would like to see more of their family soon and are hoping the vaccine allows them to do that.
“It’s been very difficult not being able to touch or hug our children,” said Leon. “We have a carport at home outside where we have been able to chat with family and share some meals socially distanced, but it’s just not the same.”
Added Linda, “I am looking forward to family gatherings, but I will not miss the Zoom calls.”