POTTSTOWN — Hundreds of people were vaccinated against the COVID-19 coronavirus Friday on the first day of the new vaccination site opened at Bethel Community Church of Pottstown.
Starting next week, the clinic will be open six days a week, Tuesday through Saturday.
It will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays and Saturdays; from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; and from 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Vaccinations are only by appointment, but that didn't stop people from showing up first thing Friday morning, trying to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine without an appointment.
"We had a line of people going down the hall, and we had to turn some people away," said the Rev. Vernon Ross, pastor of the church.
Registration for vaccinations at the site can be done online at www.montcopa.org/COVID-19vaccine. Those who are not computer savvy or do not have online access can register by calling Montgomery County's COVID-19 hotline at 833-875-3967.
The hotline is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Montgomery County recently expanded vaccine access to the group categorized as 1B and residents categorized as 1C can begin scheduling vaccination appointments on Monday, April 12.
Ruth and Charles Pluck of Pottstown first registered for the vaccine in January.
"It's definitely a relief," said Ruth after getting her shot from volunteer nurse Christine Campbell.
Asked what she and her husband will do with their newfound freedom, she replied "go the beach in Ocean City."
Campbell is quick with a needle. "I'm a pediatric nurse and the little ones don't give you any chance to be slow," she said with a laugh.
By 11:30, she had already vaccinated 55 people.
Although initial estimates were for 450 vaccinations a day, she said at the current pace, they might hit 600 on the first day.
One station over, Nate Moore of Pottstown got his shot from Nimatu Kamara. Once the vaccination waiting period is over, Moore said he plans to "go back to Philly and visit some of my relatives."
Although the longer post-vaccination period is two weeks, the first waiting period is 15 minutes.
That's how long those who get the shot are asked to wait afterward to ensure they do not have an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
As they sat in the main sanctuary at the church, which is shared by Congregation Hesed Shel Emet, the newly vaccinated were approached by Giamo Gregory, a doctor who works for Montgomery County.
He introduced them to a smartphone app called V-Safe. It's a way for the Centers for Disease Control to began to gather data about possible vaccine side effects, asking those who have been vaccinated to report daily.
"It's a way to track short-term and long-term side effects, if any," he explained.
The opening of the Pottstown vaccination clinic coincides with another new site in Lansdale, made possible by additional shipments of the Johnson & Johnson vaccinations to Montgomery County.
The 21,000 doses the county received this week are in addition to the 5,850 Pfizer vaccines the county health department has been receiving weekly.
In addition to the two new sites, the county office of public health has vaccination clinics at Norristown High School, at the Montgomery County Community College campus in Whitpain and at the Parkside Shopping Center, in the former Petco location, in Willow Grove.
Additional clinics in Norristown and King of Prussia are expected to open in the coming weeks.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on Thursday that 114,392 county residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, receiving either the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, during the ongoing Phase 1A and Phase 1B of the state’s vaccine distribution program. Another 181,328 residents have received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, according to state data.