Edmonds Waterfront Center hosts COVID vaccine pilot

Janet Young receives a shot from Bonnie Ackles, RN. (Photos courtesy Edmonds Waterfront Center)

The email from the Snohomish Health District came in Tuesday morning. Could we use 100 COVID vaccines for eligible members this week? By Thursday we had mobilized our staff, recruited volunteers, contacted & and scheduled 100 members, and prepared the Edmonds Waterfront Center for our first-ever visitors.

We have been in communication with the health district about becoming a community site for providing COVID-19 vaccines. This is a long process. Wanting to help in the meantime, the health district offered to hook us up with Anesis Spine and Pain Clinic to assist us with getting the first vaccine into the arms of our seniors.

Besides being 65 years of age or older and being a member of the Edmonds Senior Center, we needed to decide who would be included in the pilot. It was a difficult conversation. Rather than wait until all members could be vaccinated, the staff decided to seize the opportunity, vaccinate our first 100, and hopefully set the stage for becoming a designated vaccine site.  We settled on starting with members 80 years or older and essential volunteers who are delivering meals, buying groceries, or having face-to-face contact with our members. I told one person who asked me how they had been selected, “We are rewarding those who have been on the planet longest.”

Llwanga Lwanga is vaccinated.

Emotions ran high as we made the calls to our members. Many shed tears of relief. When I told longtime member 94-year-old Janet we could get her a vaccine on Friday, she said, “I could just hug you. I have been on my phone for hours every day trying to schedule a vaccine.” Without a computer, Janet could not access telehealth resources.

Michelle Reitan, our MSW social worker, confided in me that she cried in her car as she drove to the Waterfront Center, realizing that there was nothing more important that we could be doing for our vulnerable members. My dedicated team was being asked to take this effort on top of already-stretched schedules.

Members began showing up at 1:30 p.m. for their scheduled appointments. They stood outside under blue skies and bright sun to be screened and checked in by staff. Next, they entered the Rose Cantwell Community room to get their check list/passport and sign their consent form. It was rewarding to watch the expressions (from masked faces) as they saw the interior and jaw-dropping views for the first time. Program Director Michelle Burke did the final check-in and confirmed their demographic information at the reception desk. Then I escorted them into the banquet room to one of six waiting RNs who would give them their vaccine. The relief of finally getting their first COVID vaccine and being inside the new building was overwhelming for many. After getting their vaccine, members sat in chairs facing the Sound and mountains for 15 minutes to monitor any potential negative reactions to the vaccine.

The team of staff and volunteers at the Edmonds Waterfront Center.

Not everyone who came by the Edmonds Waterfront Center  were happy. Members who learned about the vaccines and had not been called expressed their frustration. We totally understand, but felt it was important that we prove we can safely deliver 100 vaccines (without wasting a single dose) to lay the groundwork to hopefully deliver hundreds more.

As Dr. Chris Spitters, health officer for the Snohomish Health District said in the Jan. 23 My Edmonds News story “Supply has slowed to a trickle”:

“It’s also important to understand that where people currently land in the prioritization and phases is not a reflection on their value in this community. If we had unlimited vaccine supply and clinical capacity to administer the vaccine, prioritization would not be necessary. But neither of those are the case. This is why, until vaccines start flowing into Washington and Snohomish County at a higher and more predictable pace, there is a need to prioritize the limited capacity not necessarily toward those at higher risk of acquiring COVID, but rather for those most likely to become severely ill, require hospitalization, and/or die if they get infected.”

This was a defining moment for the Waterfront Center and a highlight in my 36-year nonprofit career. To stand in the nearly complete iconic Waterfront Center, built by an army of volunteers and donors, watching my staff and team of nurses, usher in grateful members for their life-saving vaccines, was a moment I will never forget.

— By Daniel Johnson, MSW, CEO
Edmonds Waterfront Center

16 Replies to “Edmonds Waterfront Center hosts COVID vaccine pilot”

    1. Those who would like to assist with vaccinations, both medical and non-medical positions, can volunteer with the Snohomish Health District, Medical Reserve Corps, by going to this site…www.snohd.org/mrc


  1. As an 82 yr old member of the board I cannot thank the Staff and Center enough for providing me with this life saving vaccination. How fitting that the first community program in the new building would be administration of the covid vaccination. It speaks so eloquently to the center meeting the needs of the community. I am proud to be associated with such a classy organization.


  2. Congratulations on putting this together on such short notice! Its not easy to juggle the mixed emotions of being proud of what you were able to accomplish while simultaneously having to disappoint some others who were unable to get their shots that day.

    Hopefully you are all able to feel proud of what you scrambled to put in place and hopefully soon the government agencies that manage these things will figure out a system that get more doses to your team to distribute.



  3. Kudos on responding so quickly and doing such a great service to our community when it’s truly needed the most!

    If the Center ever needs help with computers (or related), let me know. I’ve been a programmer for over 40 years (Edmonds since 1992) and continue developing security-related software for Boeing. I also build computers (including servers), networks (including building & running cables), and I know a lot about related topics like communications.


  4. I would be happy to volunteer my limited skillset (not in health care). I know the health department is extremely maxed out in terms of resources, but using a forum like this to ask for volunteers would help to get the word out how we can help in any way we can. 🙂


  5. Congratulations, Daniel and your staff. With so little time, it was amazing that you were able to do what you did. I understand the frustration from those who could not participate, but we all still benefit from those were vaccinated since it is the beginning of stopping the spread. Keep up the good work at Waterfront Center.


  6. I am a retired RN, my license is active, and I would like to help. I will have my second dose of vaccine in early February, so am comfortable that I will not get nor pass on virus (PPE and distancing of course).
    Please contact me if you need volunteers.


  7. How does one who is 90 with an 85 year old wife who doesn’t belong but whose taxes were used to finance the Waterfront Center qualify for shots?


  8. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and offers to help.

    Since this was a pilot we do not know exactly if and when we will get additional vaccines. We are working with the Snohomish Health District to hopefully become a designated vaccine site. Only then will we begin contacting members and scheduling appointments.

    David, thank for providing the link to the Snohomish Health District Medical Reserve Corps for those medical professionals who want to volunteer to give vaccines. We will also begin building a list to augment our team should we be selected as a site. Contact Program Director Michelle Burke (425)954-2520) on my team if you want to be added to the list.

    We know there is a large, heroic community effort to to get everyone vaccinated. We are committed to playing any part we can to assist.


  9. James,
    Since we do not know if or when we will get more vaccines, I recommend you contact your healthcare provider to schedule a vaccine.

    For the record, funding from tax dollars were not used to build the Waterfront Center. The Senior Center has raised $14.5M toward our $16.5M goal. Besides the $4M from the State (from bond financing not taxes) the other $10.5M has come from individuals, families, and local foundations.


  10. Thank you Daniel & staff!! I was so surprised to get the call from Michelle R. to see if I was interested in getting the vaccine. I volunteer with meal deliveries & want to keep those I have contact with as safe as possible. Kudos to all that stepped up last Friday, and what a place to have to spend my 15 minute “observation” looking out west on a clear cool January day. I look forward to enjoying the beautiful new building in the future & helping out when needed.


  11. I am 81 and have been a member of Edmonds Senior Center for 17 years but I didn’t get chosen for the vaccine. I spend 2 hours every day checking all the vaccine clinics in Snohomish and Seattle to no avail. It seems I’m just unlucky and it might be easier to get Covid than get vaccinated! Or I should move to North Dakota or any of 28 states that are doing better for their seniors. Yes, I am anxious because a vaccine is standing between me and a ventilator!


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