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Rowan Helping Ministries staff, guests receive vaccinations

SALISBURY — With 500 newly received single-shot COVID-19 vaccines, Moose Pharmacy staff members hit the road Wednesday to provide a number of shots to guests and staff members at Rowan Helping Ministries’ shelter on Long Street.

The shots, made by Johnson & Johnson, fully vaccinate people with one dose and are touted as being 85% effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19, according to the company. Moose Pharmacy received them as part of a federal government program.

Knocking on wood for good luck, shelter staff said Wednesday they hadn’t seen any cases of COVID-19 inside the shelter because of screening and isolation procedures before guests are admitted. The vaccinations should help keep that streak going.

Sherry Smith, director of the shelter and housing services, said the one-shot vaccine is a good tool to serve the homeless population. A person who receives the first part of a two-dose shot, for example, may transition out of the shelter before it’s time to receive the final part, Smith said.

The one-shot vaccine combined with Moose Pharmacy staff traveling to Rowan Helping Ministries were examples of “meeting them where they are at,” she said.

Moose Pharmacy provided vaccines to a couple dozen shelter guests, staff members, family members and volunteers. Smith and Executive Director Kyna Grubb said some guests received vaccinations previously because they met age criteria.

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – Jean LeMaster, who is a staff member at Rowan Helping Ministries, receives her Johnson and Johnson vaccine Wednesday from Moose Pharmacy, which made a trip to the shelter.

Gerry Brown was among the shelter guests Wednesday receiving a vaccine. He said he was “ready to get it on” and called it a medical breakthrough and progress.

Jean LeMaster, a staff member at the shelter, said she wanted “to be part of the solution.”

Grubb said the COVID-19 clinic was similar to flu vaccinations the shelter has provided previously. Grubb said COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory for shelter guests, but she stressed it’s important for people to be healthy, able to go to work and “achieve a healthy life.” She called receiving the COVID-19 vaccine “overcoming one more barrier” to being part of the community.

Those vaccinated at Rowan Helping Ministries will join the more than 16,000 people in Rowan County who are fully vaccinated. While people who receive the Pfizer and Moderna varieties are considered partially vaccinated after receiving one dose, Johnson & Johnson recipients are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their first shot, said Moose Pharmacy of Salisbury Manager Kyle Yoder.

About 13% of Rowan County’s population is fully vaccinated, which is lower than the state average of 17.6%.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says 19.3% of Rowan County’s residents, or 27,356 people, are partially vaccinated. That’s also lower than the state average of 28%.

Rowan County had 29 new COVID-19 positives Wednesday, making the total in the previous two weeks 368. No new deaths were reported.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 positives reported daily has remained relatively flat, averaging between 1,500 and 2,000 daily cases in the previous month.

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