ST. JOHNSBURY CENTER — Congressman Peter Welch visited the Green Mountain Mall COVID vaccination site on Monday to express gratitude to the workforce and tour the five-day-a-week injection destination.

Much of the mall was quiet mid-morning on Monday, but there was a steady stream of people moving through the main mall entrance for their vaccines. A collaboration between Northern Counties Health Care and Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital has the Northern Express COVID Vaccination Clinic operating at the location Saturday through Tuesday each week.

Clinic Manager Jesse Dimick said the plan was for 100 people to get their first doses of the Moderna vaccine in the morning on Monday and for another 100 people to get their second doses in the afternoon. Another site at the Hardwick Fire Station was ready to add another 150 vaccinated people to Caledonia County’s total on Monday.

Welch’s visit to the mall site was his first vaccination clinic tour anywhere. The only other time he visited a clinic was to get his own vaccines.

Joining him on the tour was Dimick, Chris Towne, Chief Strategy Officer for Northern Counties Health Care, and Laural Ruggles, VP of Marketing and Community Health Improvement at NVRH.

Welch witnessed a process through which people moved quickly. The longest wait for a person getting a vaccine is after the shot, when the patient is told to hang out in a waiting area for 15 minutes to make sure there are no severe reactions to the vaccine. The whole process from checking in to seeing the medical professional administering the vaccine to getting the shot and waiting the 15 minutes before exiting through a separate door is done between 20 and 30 minutes.

There were three rooms in which the shots were being given, and between patients, Welch was able to speak to some of the vaccine-administering nurses.

Hannah Wilkins, RN, talked about the liberating feeling people were experiencing after being vaccinated.

“We’ve had a lot of people who haven’t seen family for over a year so they’re excited to be able to get their shot and see people,” she said.

Said Carroll Ruhlman, a nurse anesthetist, “It’s been very rewarding. Half the fun is just kind of chatting with the people.”

Nurse Bud Littlefield, who has been a nurse for 31 years and spent the last 11 years working in the intensive care unit at NVRH, said he is pleased to be serving at the vaccination clinic.

“This is great,” he said. “We’re doing a good deed for the community and meeting some really special people.”

Welch thanked all of the nurses for helping to get people vaccinated. “You know, it’s saving lives,” he said.

The touring group talked about the overall positive results of getting people vaccinated.

“You know it’s an incredible feeling to get the vaccine,” said Welch. “Just emotionally you feel so much better.”

The mall clinic run by NVRH and NCHC has been operating since March 1.

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