As a front line health care worker, Leeanne Jenkins of Elizabethtown has witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of COVID-19 throughout the past year.
A respiratory therapist for Baptist Health Hardin, Jenkins said from watching patients lose their lives to watching families limited to online interaction with loved ones hospitalized, the year has been hard.
That’s why for Jenkins receiving the COVID-19 vaccine was a like a “Christmas present.”
“I was relieved that there was hope coming for us,” she said. “We not only have personal protective equipment but we also now have those antibodies to keep us healthy, keep us strong and to put an end to all this craziness and madness so we can start seeing each other’s faces and start smiling again.”
Through Baptist Health, Jenkins received her first dose of the vaccine on Christmas Eve and received the second last week. Aside from some mild soreness that lasted a few hours, she said she had no difficulties with the vaccinations.
“I had a good experience with it,” she said. “It wasn’t any different for me than a flu shot.”
Vaccines are being administered statewide to those in Phase 1A – which encompasses those in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and healthcare workers – and those in Phase 1B defined as first responders, those 70 and older and K-12 school personnel. Locally, state vaccination efforts are being coordinated by Baptist Health, the Lincoln Trail District Health Department and through school officials.
The Lincoln Trail District Health Department accepted online and telephone registration appointments for recipients in Phases 1A and 1B on Jan. 20. Appointment slots were filled quickly and additional doses of the vaccine are not expected to be received by the department until February, according to Public Health Director Sara Jo Best.
As of Friday, a total of 267,577 vaccines have been administered throughout Kentucky through the State Program and through the Long Term Care Facilities Program, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Misty Ledlow of Elizabethtown, who took her first dose of the vaccine earlier this month, falls into both the Phase 1A and 1B categories because of her work in health care and as a first responder. Ledlow works at Visionworks in Elizabethtown and is part of the Central Hardin and Lebanon Junction fire departments. She said she expects to take her second dose of the vaccine next month.
Receiving her vaccine through Baptist Health, Ledlow said she’s hopeful she’ll eventually feel comfortable enough to send her son to in-person classes at Panther Academy as the vaccine becomes more readily available to the public.
“It means my son can eventually go to school and actually make friends,” she said.
Jessica Jasper, director of spiritual care at Baptist Health Hardin, said she initially was reluctant to take the vaccine because of some pre-existing conditions. After talking with her cardiologist about how she regularly interacts with COVID-19 patients through her job, she decided it was best to be vaccinated.
Jasper received her first dose on Christmas Eve and her second dose Jan. 18. She said after receiving the vaccine, she felt both a sense of relief and a sense of “survivor’s guilt” for those who have not gotten the opportunity to receive a vaccine and for those who have died from COVID-19 before the vaccine was available.
“There’s so many people that I’ve watched die, so it was very, very emotional,” she said. “It was all kinds of emotions all kind of crammed in at the same time.”
Andrew Critchelow can be reached at 270-505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.