HAMILTON — Relief -- it's not a word heard often during the pandemic. But that's what residents in Montana's towns, large and small, are feeling as they finally get their shots against the coronavirus.
After all the restrictions, all the warnings, all the arguing, and all the perseverance, it's now down to the waiting.
And for those Bitterroot residents finally getting their COVID-19 vaccinations because of their age, health -- or jobs -- it's a moment nearly a year in coming.
“So I've been very grateful. I am a very healthy person but want to live to be 101, so I'm taking this very seriously," said Stevensville resident Judy Vugteveen.
“Yeah, we do feel the relief. We're one step ahead now of maybe the COVID. Let's hope we can just get enough herd immunity and whatever to knock this stuff out," added Stevensville resident John Stanaway.
A steady stream of the first Phase 1B patients come through the doors at the Ravalli County Health Department, gladly rolling up their sleeves and getting their first prick against the pandemic.
It's not only a relief to them, but to the exhausted professionals who can now shift from the bottomless assignment of contact tracing to delivering security.
“Great to be able to help everybody get in here and I know that it can be hard for them to find staff, so it's been great to be a part of it," said Ravalli County Registered Nurse Tami Clemensen.
"And everybody who comes in is so grateful and happy to be here. And so it's been a great environment and I'm very excited to be a part of it," Clemensen continued.
That's not to say it isn't still a little scary.
“I just recommend that you wait two weeks after your second dose of Moderna. Again just kind of give your body the best chance it can to produce the antibodies," one person said.
One thing that's being stressed to all patients is that first shot does not give you immunity against the coronavirus for the Moderna vaccine, you need that second shot.”
“Cause you started to build antibodies right away after the first shot, but we don't know exactly how much, so they want people to know that they need to wait till two weeks after the second shot before they can consider themselves 100% immune," Clemensen said.
The nurses follow protocols, prepared in case someone has an adverse reaction. But so far it's clear sailing, giving not only a vaccination and peace of mind but people a chance to do their part for a viral victory.
“Oh yes, and Tammy has such a soft touch. Hardly even felt a shot. The office staff are doing an exceptional job trying to work with all the parameters with which they're given and just can't thank them enough," Vugteveen said.
“And she was right, it was a very good shot," Stanaway said. “It is very definitely necessary that that all of us that can do it get the shot and be done with this.”
Ravalli Health officials noted some improvement in vaccine supplies this past week, but say there's still months of work ahead to get everyone protected.
In the meantime, they advise residents to register to get their shots and continue to follow protective guidelines.