ELKTON — Folks were rolling up their sleeves -- or trying to -- in order to get vaccinated against COVID-19 Wednesday.

"It's hard sometimes," said Tiffany Hodgdon, director of nursing at Elkton Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. With the winter weather and people wearing long sleeves or layers Hodgdon said some of her patients had to practically undress so she could swab an arm with alcohol and administer the Moderna vaccine.

But no one was complaining. In fact, it was a party at the facility on Price Drive, with prizes offered to staff after receiving the coveted vaccine.

"Today is an important and giant step toward normalcy," said Joe DeMattus, president and CEO of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland. "The first step in getting families back together is the vaccine."

Almost 100% of the patients and all staff have consented to getting the vaccine including Joyce Davis, a registered nurse from Newark who has worked at Elkton Nursing & Rehabilitation for more than 17 years.

It took her longer to get her long sleeved shirt off than it did for Hodgdon to administer the shot. Hodgdon got in and out before she could react.

"I didn't think it'd be that quick," Davis said, laughing.

Hodgdon said she's seen varying reactions upon receiving the vaccine.

"I did have one person get emotional," she said.

Linda Latch-Bottger was more relieved than any other emotion. The Chesapeake City woman has been at the center for several months. In November COVID struck her.

"It just wipes you out," Latch-Bottger said. 'Seasonal flu is a walk in the park compared to COVID. COVID leaves you fatigued for weeks and months." She still has not regained her sense of taste.

She was among those who received the vaccine Wednesday.

"I was just so excited to actually be able to get it," she said. For her it meant she would not get the virus again, nor could she spread it to others. "I'm 76. I thought I could die from it."

So far the Cecil County Health Department has distributed 3,100 doses of the Moderna vaccine, with 100 of those being second doses according to Daniel Coulter, spokesman for the Cecil County Health Department.

"The coming weeks will see an increase in the number of vaccination clinics offered as well as an expansion of priority groups eligible to receive the vaccine," Coulter said via email.  "We encourage residents to check the Health Department website, social media pages and local news sources for updates on COVID-19 vaccination efforts."

While Calvert Manor Health Care near Rising Sun was hit hard by the novel coronavirus at the start, to date reporting 22 patient deaths, Elkton Nursing did not have its first case until November. But they got hit hard when it did arrive. According to the Maryland Coronavirus database there have been 21 patient deaths there.

Davis said she and her co-workers follow all the CDC guidelines with masks, sanitizers, frequent hand washing and isolating those patients that showed symptoms and tested positive.

"We protected ourselves and kept our residents protected," Davis said. 

DeMattus said generally the outbreaks in these facilities reflects the community in which it is located. He said the initial low infection rate in Elkton Nursing & Rehabilitation runs counter to statistics showing the 21921 zip code has the highest number of infections.

"In terms of community penetration they were also a little bit lucky," he said.

Julianna Lau-Hawthorne, administrator of the continuing care facility at 1 Price Drive in Elkton, said patients and staff were supposed to be recipients of the Pfizer vaccine.

"We were assigned to Walgreen's but Walgreen's did not give us a date," Lau-Hawthorne said. "So we reached out to Union Hospital/ChristianaCare and said, "Can you share?"

Hiran Ratnayake, spokesman for ChristianaCare, said the hospital only facilitated the supply through the Cecil County Health Department.

After receiving permission from the state to use the other vaccine arrangements were made and the administration started Wednesday.

"Since arranging this Walgreen's reached out," she said, adding no one from the pharmacy explained what happened. "We just got a phone call that said "We're ready to schedule now."

So patients or staff will get one of the vaccines approved by the FDA. Both require a second shot, which Lau-Hawthorne said those receiving the Moderna vaccine would get Feb. 10.

"People really need to take advantage of the vaccine," Latch-Bottger said. "Don't let it pass you by. It's important. People need to understand this virus is real."

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