Merced County Times Newspaper
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Elders share low-down on taking vaccines

Merced County received just over 6,000 vaccine doses from the State in January, which was low considering that Merced County has 287,420 residents and the goal is to offer all residents an opportunity to receive the vaccine.

The way the vaccine was made available to those eligible to receive it in the general public was through a website launched on Jan. 17 by the County.  Its purpose was to inform the public of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and communicate with eligible individuals as vaccination opportunities became available.  Registration could be done through the county’s newly launched website,

Merced County COVID-19 vaccination clinics were initially scheduled for Jan. 20 through 23 to serve those in Phase 1A, as well as seniors 65 years of age and older, which is a Phase 1B group.

Additional vaccine clinics were scheduled as vaccine doses were received by Merced County Public Health.

The clinics were by appointment only.

The Jan. 20 public clinic was held at the Merced County Fairgrounds. The Jan. 21 clinic took place at the Los Banos County Fairgrounds, and the Jan. 22 clinic was back at the Merced County Fairgrounds.

In all, 1,392 individuals were vaccinated at those vaccination clinics in Los Banos and Merced.

The vaccination clinics quickly reached full capacity for the week due to high demand.

Merced County Public Health officials reported on Jan. 24 that additional vaccination clinics would be available as the State provided Merced County with additional doses, and that the next week, a total of 800 doses were split between the two sites.

There was a pause in vaccine delivery then due to vaccine unavailability.

On Feb. 16 and 17, Dignity Health-Mercy Medical Center, University of California Health, UC Merced, Merced College, City of Merced, and other health practitioners and volunteers partnered with the County to facilitate clinics at Merced College.

The vaccine doses were made available through Dignity Health and University of California Health.  There were enough vaccines to inoculate 1,170 people. The goal of these clinics was to reach Merced’s most vulnerable populations to ensure they received timely access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

County officials are currently advocating for a higher allocation of doses from the State in coming weeks.

For those interested in knowing what to expect when receiving the vaccine, the Times interviewed several people who got their first dose at the clinic at the Merced County Fairgrounds on Jan. 20, and the second dose at the Merced County Fairgrounds on Feb. 10:


Steve Spendlove,
Age 69

First Dose Experience: “I decided to take the vaccine with the realization that this won’t be over until there’s some kind of herd immunity, and to get the hopeful 95 percent immunity and not add to the hospital crush.

I’m very happy since I never expected to get a shot by January 2021, and I wouldn’t have if they hadn’t changed the age to 65 and older because it was 75 and older.

My shot was scheduled at 2:30 p.m., but I got there at 1:20.

When I got there and parked, there were 15 or 20 people in line to go into the building, and they were asking when is your appointment time.

The man in charge asked a group of eight of us who had 2:30 appointments to sit together, and he would put us back in line before those who were scheduled at 2:45.

When I came back from the area where I had been sitting, I was asked questions as to whether I had been given the shot before, and then I went inside the building and was asked other questions of a health-related nature.

I then waited because they couldn’t bring out all the shots which had been in deep refrigeration at the same time, so they would bring out a tray at a time.  In my case, there was a lag and I waited for a few minutes at the head of the line.

I actually got my shot at 2:20 p.m.

When I got the shot, I didn’t even feel it.  It was like the sharp place on a fingernail pressing gently on a soft place on your skin.  There was nothing to it.

I got my shot, and then they ran out of vaccine for the day.

On my card is the date for my second shot which is three weeks later.

As far as I was concerned, it was well done.

I think they set up a structure to give the doses as soon as they are delivered.  So I think they did really well in an imperfect situation.

Later in the day, I couldn’t remember which arm I got it in.  I looked at my bandaid, and that told me it was on my left arm.  As the day wore on, I started to feel a little arm soreness, and by the evening, I felt mildly, vaguely unwell and that was gone the next morning, and the next morning my arm was barely sore.

You can almost say the side effects were zero, but I did have a mild sense of, ‘Am I getting sick?’, but it never changed and was gone when I woke up the next morning.  When I took the bandaid off the next day, there was a teeny reddish blot.  I give them an ‘A’ because it was a painless shot that was so quick you didn’t even know you got it, and a little arm soreness and a super mild feeling of unwellness.”

Second Dose Experience: “I got the shot at 9:30 a.m., and at about 1:30 p.m., I felt kind of punk, and then I got an achy feeling in my head, not really a headache.  I could have gone to work, but didn’t really feel that I would want to.  I felt warm, but couldn’t say if it was a fever.  My throat felt a little raw, but it might have been allergies.  At 3:00 p.m., I was tired so I slept for an hour, but as the day wore into the evening, the malaise went away and when I woke up the next morning, I felt fine.”


Cathy Paskin, age 68,
and Eric Tressler, age 71

First Dose Experience: “We got there at 9:30 a.m.

In the line outside, we were asked screening questions.

When we went indoors, we saw four people giving injections.

It was a much more simple and organized process than we expected.

At the first table indoors, they made sure we were registered and handed us an information pack about the vaccine and gave us each a card.  At the second table, they asked us the same questions they had asked on the online application.  Then we went straight over to the place to get the injection, and they filled out a card with the lot number and the date.

We were given the vaccines.  We got Pfizer.

The card said whether you had to wait 15 or 30 minutes after the shot, and if it was 30 minutes, it meant you had told them you had some specific health conditions. We only had to wait 15 minutes to be sure we didn’t have a reaction.

A man monitored the people sitting in chairs.  He asked that if either of us had a reaction, to let him know and he would come right over.

The only issue we had was a little bit of soreness in the arm at the injection site, and this was less than with the flu vaccine.”

Second Dose Experience: Cathy had almost no symptoms just like the first dose, and Eric had a minor feeling of malaise, but nothing significant.

Did anyone experience significant side effects from the vaccine?

Amalia Madrigal-Hernandez, MPH, division manager of the Prevention, Policy and Planning Division at the Merced County Public Health Department, told the Times, “We don’t have information on significant side effects. The individual has to report those to the state.  There is a link with the state they use to report any significant side effects.

“We haven’t heard anyone saying they’ve had very severe side effects.”

In other vaccine news, . . .

The public is encouraged to visit  to determine their eligibility and receive vaccination notifications to register for available appointments. Those who don’t have Internet access can call the Merced County Public Health Information Line at 209-381-1180 for assistance between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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