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500 Islanders get their second Pfizer shots: Relief for many, concern for those not vaccinated

Close to 500 Shelter Islanders got a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday, March 19 in the school gym, completing the largest mass vaccination event in Island history.

The smoothly run public health milestone gave seniors, front-line workers and others at special risk a new lease on life at the end of a long COVID winter.

Kim Dempster strode across the school parking lot Friday afternoon looking pretty jaunty for someone who had just been inoculated. “I’m going to lay low for 24 hours to be safe, but I feel like Superwoman,” Ms. Dempster said. “Now I know I’m not going to end up on a ventilator in a hospital with my nurse having to deal with 15 patients.”

Still, she said she knows Shelter Island and the country are not out of the woods yet. “I don’t think we should travel, or relax until everyone is vaccinated,” she said.

Like the first vaccination event on Feb. 26, this one rolled out with clockwork precision, orchestrated by Town officials, fueled by vaccines from the state and guided by Stonybrook Southampton’s nursing team. The event was executed by local nurses, Island Emergency Medical Services  personnel, the Shelter Island Police Department, town employees, and a phalanx of local volunteers who had lined up almost everyone who got the jab in February for their second shot.

There was no line at 3 p.m. as  Beau Payne waved me ahead to the remote-read thermometer and check-in. School Nurse Mary Karnavogel welcomed me to the gym, and turned me over to Nurse Sharon Wicks, holding a needle and telling me to relax. I didn’t feel a thing.

Nurse Sharon Wicks, her kind eyes were smiling, and our reporter didn’t feel a thing. (Credit: Charity Robey)

Jon Kaasik and his daughter Linda were also enjoying the vibe of relief and joy in the gym, something they haven’t gotten to do in years, since Ms. Kaasik graduated in 2013 and is working on a master’s degree remotely. “This year has been just like high school, we’re all living at home,” she said. “It was a wonderful feeling walking in here.”

Mr. Kaasik was grateful not to have to make two round trips to the city to get vaccinated, especially since he admitted he was a little nervous about getting the jab. “It’s unnerving,” he said. “I wish this vaccine had been around for a few years before I had to get it, but getting COVID is a lot scarier. I couldn’t believe they worked this out so quickly.”

Jon Kaasik and his daughter Linda were glad to be back in the gym on a great day for Shelter Island. (Credit: Charity Robey)

Sherri Cavisini and Wendy Willumsen had just gotten their second shots, and Ms. Cavisini was still wearing her surgical gloves. She wouldn’t be planning any big trips for a while, mainly because her plan to go to Brazil last March was more or less on permanent hold pending Covid getting under control. Still, she said she was feeling some relief. 

“I’m less neurotic now,” Ms. Cavisini said. “I’ve been wearing gloves everywhere for a year. When I leave here, these go in the garbage. In the spring we had only nine cases, but now it’s almost 80. What scares me is we’ve got a lot of people vaccinated, but the people who are getting infected are not vaccinated.”

Amanda Hayward, who runs Commander Cody’s was there along with most of her employees, and happy to report everyone was feeling fine. “We’re all good” she said. “No celebrations planned as of yet. Just happy to be vaccinated.”

“Hooray for science,” said 93-year old Ann Brunswick, who took a nap after her second vaccination, and says she woke feeling fine. She’s planning to start driving again, and to read the new Walter Isaacson biography of Jennifer Doudna, a scientist who developed the gene editing technique that was used to develop Covid tests and vaccines.

Evan Guillemin was folding chairs as things wound down around 3:30. He’s an EMS volunteer who has been on the job for about six months, and has already helped at a number of vaccination events in New York and on Long Island.

Mr. Guillemin had high praise for the Shelter Island event, particularly the way people who really need shots were prioritized. “The whole IGA came in, all the frontline workers, and so many people donated their time,” he said.