Lancaster mass vaccination site, we hardly knew ye; roadie traded shows for shots


LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — When it opened, the folks in charge said it would stay open until June 30.

Still, “we didn’t think June 30th would actually be the end date,” Vanessa Felty, a nursing supervisor at Lancaster County’s mass vaccination site, the first and largest such site in Midstate Pa, said. “We thought we would be here until maybe August or September.”

But the Vaccinate Lancaster site closed on schedule Wednesday, on its 113th day of operation. The reason why required no explanation to anyone inside. There was, quite simply, almost no one left to vaccinate. A once vast, cavernous former Bon-Ton at Park City Center was now a vast, cavernous soon-to-be-former mass vaccination site.

Even if the vaccinators could now do their job in a small slice of the department store-sized space, they were still doing their job. Bella Marisco got one of the site’s last shots, her second does of Pfizer. She was glad she had — coincidentally — gotten her first dose exactly three weeks earlier and not a day after that, meaning she wouldn’t have to go elsewhere for this one.

She walked out with a bandage on her arm, flanked by her boyfriend and his grandmother. Gesturing toward her, she said: “She’s elderly, and you know, I think we should keep everyone safe, especially our elderly population, people who have immune issues.”

Pharmacist Roland Massaad said the vaccination effort, which included giving nearly 6,000 shots on the busiest day, was a highlight of his professional life. “It would be great to be able to stay at that level for a couple of weeks or maybe a month or so,” Massaad said. But 6,000 turned out to be a peak, not a plateau. Still, Massaad and his team managed to prepare — and Felty and her team managed to administer — 238,000 doses.

They didn’t measure their success only in numbers.

“Even the vaccinators get emotional with you and get emotional with the patients they were vaccinating,” Massaad said. “So it was just overwhelmingly joyful.”

Joyful too for Tim McCarthy, who spent the past decade as a member of rock band road crews, most recently with Queen, but went where the need was when the need for roadies dried up. From day one, he was a greeter at the site, asking people if they were there for their first dose or second, showing them the way in, and thanking them on their way out.

“It’s customer service, you know,” McCarthy said. “I’m used to doing that on the road. Everyone, you know, we’re trying to have a good time. And the only way to do that is to get people back to normal, enjoy some more entertainment in our lives. [And we] can’t do that until everyone’s vaccinated.”

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