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Schuylkill County vaccine clinic fills up quickly

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Fairlane Village Mall in Schuylkill County is so popular all available appointment times are allocated this week.

Mall representatives posted a message on its Facebook page Wednesday afternoon saying the clinic is full. Additional information will be posted on the page.

On Wednesday, those from Schuylkill County and elsewhere stood in line at the mall to receive the first of two Pfizer shots meant to protect them from the virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and about 2.5 million people worldwide.

Walmart and Sam’s Club are joining with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring the shots to those who need them most. Eligibility guidelines must be met to receive the vaccine. Those interested must call 800-753-8827 to schedule an appointment. Insurance is not needed. There is no cost for the vaccine.

Charles and Eleanor Wernert, 83, and 79 respectively, of Friedensburg, said they were thankful for the opportunity to receive the vaccine.

“We kind of lucked out. We were getting shots Monday at Geisinger Danville but they canceled,” Eleanor said, saying they received a text.

She said their shots were rescheduled because the hospital wanted to make sure they had enough vaccine for the second dose for those who received the first one.

“They moved it to March 24, which I was very upset about,” she said.

Eleanor said she got the shot to protect her husband, who has medical conditions.

“I don’t do shots normally,” she said.

The couple was told to return March 17 for their second shot.

Debbie Pauzer, 65, and a friend, Teresa Stoffregen, 74, both of Pottsville, said they called numerous times before they spoke to someone. Both said getting the shot is important.

“I want to try to stay alive,” Stoffregen said.

Neither noticed any discomfort when receiving the shot, however, patients had to wait several minutes to make sure they didn’t have an adverse reaction.

Stoffregen said, “You can’t be too careful,” because of the pandemic.

For Kristyn Fayewicz of Reading, getting the vaccine is crucial because of her medical condition. She wasn’t having any luck until Wednesday.

She spent weeks calling providers listed on the state’s website with no success.

“They were either booked or didn’t have a vaccine available. It was like ‘Hunger Games,’?” she said.

More of an effort needs to be made on the state level to get the vaccine to the public, she said.

She was ecstatic to finally get her chance.

“I couldn’t believe it. I’ll celebrate as soon as I will roll my sleeve back down,” she said.

Kathy Kritak, 70, of Port Carbon, was equally frustrated.

She is on the list with Lehigh Valley Health Network and contacted other pharmacies but struck out.

“I’m very grateful. They did a great job,” she said the ease and professionalism of those with the clinic.

Sharon Stencovage’s persistence paid off when she called numerous times. The 65-year-old Schuylkill Haven resident tried to obtain the shot with no luck because she didn’t meet age criteria. Vaccine availability was also an impediment.

“The problem is you couldn’t find it,” she said.

She urged residents to “be patient” but determined in their effort to get vaccinated.

Schuylkill County Emergency Management Coordinator John Matz said he was told “1,000 shots a week” is the goal. Matz said someone in state Sen. David Argall’s office contacted him requesting help with finding a suitable location. He called the Fairlane Village Mall for help.

“Any vaccines that are being done in the county are welcome,” he said.

Rocco Arruzzo, Pennsylvania regional manager for Lexington Realty International, the company managing the mall, said they were more than happy to assist.

Christine Verdier, Argall’s chief of staff, said the goal is to have the clinic Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, assuming Walmart receives timely vaccine shipments.

“It’s a total of six weeks,” she said.

A second should be given 21 days after the initial one. She asked Schuylkill County residents to stop calling the 800 number until Saturday because all appointments are full this week. Difficulty in getting through could be because the phone number is also used for the clinics in York, Centre and Fayette counties.

Charles and Eleanor Wernert of Friedensburg talk about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. AMY MARCHIANO/TIMES NEWS