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First round of COVID vaccines administered at Iowa Veterans Home

T-R PHOTOS BY LANA BRADSTREAM — Iowa Veterans Home employee Cassidy Umbdenstock receives her COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacy student Lakyn Hanson. Operation COVID Freedom kicked off at IVH on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the beginning of Operation COVID Freedom for the Iowa Veterans Home.

The effort to give vaccinations to residents and staff began at 5 a.m. Through a partnership with Walgreens, the vaccines were brought into Malloy Hall and kept in coolers.

Different stations were set up in the room for staff and vaccines were taken to residents in their rooms. People getting the vaccine had to fill out consent forms and then they were given vaccination cards to show the date of when they received the first injection. The card must be provided to receive the second dose in three weeks.

There was a time limit on the vaccines. Each vial contained enough for six doses. The dose had to be mixed with a saline solution and drawn into syringes. Then it had to be administered within six hours.

Walgreens pharmacist Cathie Larmie of Des Moines said she began her work at IVH at 5 a.m. Due to the time constraints on the mixed vaccine, she said they had to know how many doses were going out so they did not mix too much.

Walgreens pharmacist Cathie Larmie mixes the COVID-19 vaccine for staff and residents at the Iowa Veterans Home on Tuesday.

“We need to make sure they are used,” Larmie said. “If there is an extra dose in a syringe, we will find someone who needs it.”

Commandant Timon Oujiri likened the administration of the vaccines to a science and praised the partnership with Walgreens.

“We overlooked all of the information we sent to Walgreens on Friday,” he said.

Judy Fowler, a nursing supervisor, said they gave 10 residents injections within the first hour.

“They have been very positive about it,” she said.

T-R PHOTO BY LANA BRADSTREAM Walgreens pharmacist Cathie Larmie shows Iowa Veterans Home Commandant Timon Oujiri how the COVID-19 vaccines are stored in the cooler. Different stations were set up in Malloy Hall for the administration of the vaccines on Tuesday.

Lakyn Hanson, a pharmaceutical student at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, volunteered to administer vaccines to staff members on Tuesday.

“I like feeling like I am being a part of vaccinating everybody,” Hanson said. “I feel like I am doing my part to help the world.”

Hanson gave IVH employee Cassidy Umbdenstock her first dose and then told her to wait for 15 minutes for observation.

“I thought the flu shot hurt a lot more,” Umbdenstock said. “I did not feel it. I am not worried.”

Fowler said the 15-minute wait is so they can spot any allergic reactions, such as dizziness, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Oujiri said the goal is to have 100 percent of the residents vaccinated with the first dose in the first three days of Operation COVID Freedom. He said some of the staff have been apprehensive about receiving the injection. When the vaccines arrived Tuesday morning, roughly 59 percent of the staff consented to the doses. However, when they saw the vaccines coming in, Oujiri said more staff contacted administrators to ask if they could get vaccinated.

“I would say there are more than 60 percent now who want to get it,” he said.

Oujiri hopes after more staff see the number of residents and fellow employees who are doing fine following the vaccinations, that they will consent when Walgreens returns for another round in March.

“We have encouraged everybody to speak to their medical providers about the vaccine and how great it would be for us to have everybody inoculated.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or

lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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