Morning Sentinel photojournalist Rich Abrahamson is given the Johnson & Johnson single dose COVID-19 vaccine for by registered nurse Kim Connelly at a clinic Wednesday in Skowhegan. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

It felt like most shots. Just a little bee sting in the upper arm followed by the dull sensation of medicine creeping into my body. This time it was different though, because today I received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for COVID-19. In about 45 minutes I was done and out the door.

I was one of 400 people to receive the vaccine during Wednesday’s clinic at the State of Maine regional office building at 98 North Ave. in Skowhegan. Wednesday was the first clinic day for people ages 18 years and older.

I can’t imagine the process going any smoother or clinic staff being any friendlier. Using email, I preregistered through Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan. After only a couple days I was notified of available appointments for the upcoming week. I signed up and made sure I was on time.

People receiving shots were instructed to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before their appointments. After parking, I placed a mask over my face and gathered my IDs. I gave my name to clinic staff who were posted at the building. My name was checked against a list of appointments on a clipboard.

After a minute I was invited inside where another staff member asked me a series of rapid-fire COVID-19 questions. Answering ‘no’ to all the questions, I was given hand sanitizer and entered the clinic.

Staff instructed me to stand on either green or gray lines taped on the floor before I could formally check in and be vaccinated. After proving my residency with a recent utility bill and car registration, I was directed to another waiting area next to an orange pylon.

“You are next,” said a gloved staff member after he’d wiped down a vaccination station with disinfectant.

The rectangular shaped clinic was set with 10 long tables, with people receiving shots at both ends. It took about five minutes to fill out a one-page questionnaire. I printed my name and date of birth on a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card before getting the shot. I was one of 400 to get a shot that day.

Muted conversation and muffled laughter mixed with beeps from small timers each sounding 15 minutes after a person had received their vaccination. Next, clinic staff would check on the person and provide them with a fact sheet on the vaccine before allowing them to leave.

Seats, table surfaces, pens and clipboards were sprayed with disinfectant and wiped down by gloved staff before the next person to be vaccinated was seated. Those waiting for the 15 minutes to pass flipped through their cell phones and watched others go through the process.

The clinic has served people up to 103 years of age since it opened about two months ago, said Tiffany Comis, director of ambulatory service at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan.

The clinic space was donated by the Hight family. Normally the clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Comis said, noting that sometimes the hours change depending on the allocation of vaccine. The first employee clinic at the hospital took place over Christmas week.

Comis described the range of emotions that come with receiving the vaccine. From relief to excitement to hope, she said.

“Some of the older people have not been out of their homes in a year,” she said. A clinic staff member cried after a close friend she’d not seen in two months arrived for a vaccination, Comis said.

“We’re not at the finish line yet. We should remain diligent,” she said. “The hope is that vaccine will provide immunity.”

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