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San Diego senior citizens share experience receiving COVID-19 vaccine

It's been an all-hands-on-deck operation to vaccinate seniors in care facilities for coronavirus.

SAN DIEGO — St. Paul’s Senior Services in San Diego is currently vaccinating seniors and staff in all departments. These include Assisted Living, Memory Care and Independent Living. 

“Our staff are the ones that are bringing in the virus,” said CEO Ellen Schmeding. 

Schmeding said since September, a handful of senior residents tested positive for COVID-19. She told News 8 that staff members know the risk the of exposing seniors. 

“We have extreme measures at our front door. We’re taking temperatures and we have an electronic screening systems," said Schmeding.  

She said there have been many challenges during the pandemic for the senior living community for both staff and residents; seniors coping with separation from families, limited visitors and the uncertainty of the vaccine rollout. Schemding now sees some relief.  

St. Paul’s Senior Services is registered with CVS Pharmacy and has held seven clinics as of this week.  

“We were among the first to receive the vaccine on December 30. It was challenging, but there was a feeling of celebration in the air,” said Schmeding. 

Senior resident Eldon Thompson was the first resident to get the COVID-19 vaccine at St. Paul’s first clinic on December 30. He said his experience reminds him of the Polio outbreak and proudly got the vaccine.   

“I am a child of the polio age and I was one of the first to get the shot,” said Thompson. 

Schmeding said it was a collaboration of decision making with families, staff and seniors, educating them about the vaccine and side effects.  

So far 70% of the company's staff has been vaccinated, receiving both doses. 

90% of their seniors have received the first dose. Now those 350 residents are waiting for their second shot. Safety is the number one priority at St. Paul’s and there have been a lot of adapting to health guidelines. Since COVID-19 cases have increased, visitors are not allowed indoors and social-distanced outdoor visiting stations are setup, and drive-by events. 

 “We just look for ways to keep that connection going. It’s been the most important thing,” said Schmeding. 

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