First vaccine doses administered at Brandon Woods

Jan 5, 2021

One of Dartmouth’s hardest hit nursing homes has taken its first steps toward returning to a new normal, as staff and residents at Brandon Woods received their first Covid-19 vaccines on Jan. 5.

The Bliss Corner nursing home previously saw an outbreak of the virus in late April in which more than twenty residents died. 

Brandon Woods was able to offer the vaccine through a federal Long Term Care pharmacy partnership program with CVS and Walgreens. 

Margaret Soares, 97, casually sat on a couch while receiving the shot. She said that getting the vaccine “wasn’t all that bad.”

“Do I get a bonus?” she laughed.

Fellow resident Claire Antaya, 77, agreed. The Fall River native noted that she “barely felt it” and that it was essentially like getting a flu shot.

“It was very comfortable and everyone was very accommodating with it,” she said. “Plus I’ve worked with doctors before, so I know how these kinds of things go — I even wore short sleeves under this sweater.”

During the spring outbreak, “We lost so many people — it was so sad at the very beginning,” nurse Leanne Cebula-Risgin said. “But things are so much different now and [we’re] feeling a lot safer with these vaccines.”

Medical professionals received the first wave of doses according to a tiered system, with those who deal with Covid-19 patients and in emergency or urgent care settings getting it first.

Facility administrator Temitope Shodunke noted after the vaccine shipment arrived at Brandon Woods that he was “very excited” about getting his building a step closer to leaving the pandemic behind.

“We had a very strong response and acceptance rate,” Shodunke said. “Almost 99 percent of residents consented.” 

According to parent company CEO Frank Romano, getting staff and residents to warm up toward the new vaccines wasn’t the easiest task. Romano noted that at first, a number of people were a bit hesitant.

To ensure residents understood the importance of getting their shots, Romano had World War II-style posters with slogans like “Let’s band together and Aide our effort in protecting ourselves” set up around the nursing home.

“These people have seen Covid first-hand and it’s scary,” he said. “It was a challenge to set all of this up, but this is the best thing to happen to us in the last year — it’s very exciting.”