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Chateau La Jolla vaccinates residents and staff against COVID-19

Chateau La Jolla resident Butch Hansen receives the first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine Jan. 27.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Residents and staff of the Chateau La Jolla senior community breathed a sigh of relief the afternoon of Jan. 27, when all 99 received the first dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in the outdoor courtyard of the Prospect Street apartment complex.

In an orchestrated mass vaccination, chairs were set up outside and residents and staff members were seated in waves. Physicians went chair to chair administering vaccines.

Once people were vaccinated, they went into the reconfigured dining area, where chairs were spaced six feet apart, to be monitored for side effects such as allergic reaction, pain, tenderness or redness around the injection site or headache or nausea. Afterward, the chairs were given an antibacterial wipedown and a new wave of residents was seated.

With smiles detectable even behind their face masks, vaccinated residents told friends and neighbors that they “hardly felt” the injection and were glad to have gotten it.

Chateau La Jolla resident Judy Chamberlain sports a sticker after getting her COVID-19 vaccination.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Resident Judy Chamberlain joked that she was “running in” to get the vaccine. “That virus is looking for my age specifically, so I’m doing everything I can to get in there,” she said.

She said her experience trying to get the vaccine elsewhere had been “frustrating.”

“I called the hospital systems I go to, but they only have it for a short period of time and then they run out,” she said. “So I’m excited to get it today. I know [immunity] doesn’t take until after you get the second dose, so I’m happy to get this process started.”

Moderna’s vaccine requires two shots four weeks apart, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Chateau residents and employees will get their second shots at the end of February.

Waving and saying hi to residents and friends as they got in line, Chamberlain said she hadn’t seen several of them in months.

“We have all been isolated,” she said. "[Chateau La Jolla has] had to close the places that gave us the chance to socialize to keep us safe, and I’ve missed seeing everyone. I think the socialization is so important for all of us; if we don’t have that, after a while we can get very morose. I have a few friends that are really down right now.

“For me, I have cleaned every closet and cupboard and kept busy in that way, gone through papers, but after a while the projects run out. ... So I’m counting the days until I can patronize the local businesses. I’m just crushed at how many are closing. I feel so bad the little stores and restaurants are hurting so much.”

Resident Elaine De La Vega said she was “thrilled” to get the vaccine.

“It’s very difficult to try to get the vaccine unless you want to wait for hours at [the vaccination ‘superstation’ at] Petco Park,” she said. “I see this as a start because we need to get so much of the population vaccinated. ... I want to go back to seeing my friends in the coffee shops rather than in their driveways from six feet away.”

Butch Hansen, who said he was “wanting and waiting for” the vaccine, said he appreciated that it was being administered at Chateau La Jolla.

“So many of us don’t drive and it’s difficult to get around,” he said. “I’ve been doing all the reading on the vaccine and have been looking forward to getting it, but getting to it has been difficult. I served in the military and never had any types of problems with vaccines they gave us, so I had no reservations about this.”

The vaccines were administered by Lanoi Medical Group, which has an office in Sorrento Valley. Its chief executive, Bart Calame, also is on the board of the Kiwanis Club of La Jolla.

“We used to hold Kiwanis meetings at Chateau, so I know the facility well,” Calame said. “When you talk to the doctors, they look at who needed the vaccines first. With older citizens, essential workers and those living in close quarters, the facility was a nexus of every person that qualifies.”

When Lanoi acquired the needed number of vaccines, Calame penciled in a day just for Chateau and agreed to transport the equipment and staff. “We made it happen,” he said.

“I did a silent screaming happy dance; I was over the moon,” said Wendy Matalon, Chateau executive director and a Kiwanis member. “We have a whole building full of elderly people and what I consider essential staff — people that are going in and out of rooms every day, dining services and transportation — who needed vaccines. We have a handful of people who got them on their own, but everyone that hasn’t gotten one that wants one is getting one.”

Chateau La Jolla residents and staff members wait to get their COVID-19 vaccinations Jan. 27.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

Annette Jimenez, a server in the Chateau dining area, said she feels “very lucky” to get the vaccine offered to employees. “Obviously, the residents need it and it gives them a sense of security. I thought it was great and keeps people at ease, but it’s great that employees get it, too,” she said.

Afterward, she said she barely felt the needle, had no immediate side effects and that it felt like “any other flu shot.”

Matalon said she had been struggling with how to secure vaccines for all the residents through other channels.

“The county wasn’t going to come here. We are not licensed here at Chateau; we are an apartment complex with services, so they expect us to make our own arrangements,” she said. “I have been very nervous since COVID started about protecting residents and employees.”

Calame said “this is beyond the job we do for a paycheck. … There is an altruistic energy to this that I can see the doctors are really rallying to; they know how to help and are doing it. We have all been in a year of bottled-up tension, which gets relieved when they get to administer this. This is the beginning of the light at the end of the tunnel and the start of blue skies.” ◆