A day of joy and celebration
By Amy W. Sorter
Balloons, music and a festive atmosphere generally signify happy times and happy people. Such images are not typically in line with COVID-19.
Yet an atmosphere of optimism and festivity reigned on Saturday as residents and staff across The Legacy Communities received initial doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine. “We wanted to make this a fun event that people would want to come to,” said Laura Levy, executive director of The Legacy Willow Bend.
“It’s usually quiet at Legacy. It was a loud day. This was a party, a celebration, with people celebrating what they hope is the beginning of some kind of relief,” said Jessica Haecker, executive director of The Legacy at Home, the organization’s off-campus arm which includes home health, hospice and personal assistance.
According to John Falldine, the atmosphere was just as festive at The Legacy Midtown Park in Dallas. “I can’t say that getting a vaccine was fun, but it was a seminal moment,” added Falldine, the center’s executive director. “A lot of people understood the importance of the event.”
As the day wound to a close on both campuses, the majority of residents and a little more than half the staff at The Legacy Senior Communities (which includes The Legacy at Home component) received the first round of vaccinations. At press time, none of those receiving the vaccine have demonstrated any ill effects, other than sore arms. The next round of vaccines is scheduled for Jan. 23.
In addition to the celebratory atmosphere, the logistical process of vaccine distribution went off mainly without a hitch. The Legacy Senior Communities CEO Melissa Orth praised management on both campuses for thinking through every aspect of the day, from scheduling to communication to maintaining social distancing to mask-wearing. “Walgreens deserves a huge shout-out as well,” said Orth, referring to the visiting pharmacists who distributed the vaccine. “They were well-organized, and a great partner.”
While the majority of residents gladly received the vaccine — health permitting — the story was somewhat different when it came to staff. Some were reluctant to receive the vaccine, partly due to misinformation. “Social media has been our largest obstacle when it comes to the vaccine,” Haecker commented. “Much of the information received also depended on which news outlet people were watching or following.”
According to Orth, The Legacy Senior Communities was in line with other independent and assisted living communities in the area of vaccine reluctance. “What we experienced was consistent within the industry,” she said. She added that her hope is that staff who witnessed the vaccine distribution on Jan. 2, and talked to co-workers who participated, will become more relaxed when it comes to getting their own immunizations.
The Legacy executives indicated that, once reluctant staff view the continued health of their vaccinated co-workers, their disinclination to receive the medicine should disappear. In the meantime, Levy said that The Legacy Willow Bend is embarking on an education plan, geared toward communicating vaccination benefits.
Meanwhile, The Legacy executives stressed the importance of vaccination. Just as important is self-education about the vaccine’s pros and cons. “Read up on it,” Haecker advised. “Then make the choice you’re the most comfortable with.” Furthermore, people should depend on reputable sources for that education. “It’s important not to have any misconceptions about it,” Levy said. “The science is out there.”
Finally, the general public should understand that the vaccine was developed to protect against getting COVID-19 and its potentially debilitating effects. What the vaccine is not is a horrible, painful experience with a bunch of horrible, painful side effects. “It’s not much different from the flu shot,” Falldine said. “If you have fear of needles, it’s a needle. Otherwise, it’s not any different from any other injection.”
Even with the benefits of vaccinating The Legacy Senior Communities residents and staff, Orth offered a note of caution. “Though this was a great first step, it won’t change any of our behaviors, until the majority of our staff and residents receive that second shot,” she said. “We’ve gotten a huge boost, but all protocols related to COVID will remain in place until everyone is vaccinated.”
In other words, the vaccine doesn’t mean that The Legacy residents and staff will be able to immediately throw masks away or ignore social distancing protocols. However, Orth and her team acknowledged that the vaccinations represent a huge move in the right direction when it comes to getting through, and moving away from, the pandemic. Hence the celebration, with balloons, music and smiling faces.
“It was an emotional day across the organization, on both campuses,” Orth said. “The look of optimism and hope on people’s faces was huge, as we took these first steps toward getting beyond the pandemic.”