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New patients take advantage of walk-in vaccine clinic in Rifle

Ben Kleckner, a 30-year-old attorney based out of the Front Range, receives a COVID-19 vaccination in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

The excitement in Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus driver Ronda McCarroll’s voice ricocheted off every nook and cranny of the make-shift waiting room.

Garfield County Public Health hosted a free walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Rifle on Saturday, and McCarroll had just brought her 20-year-old son, Jeremiah McCarroll.

He sat quietly beside his mother, looking at his smartphone, a ticket officially confirming he received his vaccination underneath.



Ronda McCarroll was ecstatic.

“The more people that get it, the more we can get herd immunity, and then slowly we can get rid of the masks, and slowly start doing what we used to do,” she said. “Because you miss a handshake… I’m a hugging type of person — I like to hug. I haven’t had a hug in over a year. I’m having a hug withdrawal.”



All walks of life rolled in: black and white people, Hispanic.

The McCarrolls are a Black family and people of color are still getting vaccinated at a slower pace than white people in Colorado.

McCarroll, however, had just received her second and final vaccination Thursday.

Jeremiah McCarroll, 20, sits in a waiting room after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Asked how it felt to get vaccinated, he said, “It feels good.”
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“I hesitated a little bit but then I called my mom, and she’s in her 80s and she got it,” McCarroll said. “She’s doing good and she’s been going on four months fully vaccinated.”

After her vaccination, McCarroll said she drank plenty of water and took over-the-counter pain medication.

Parachute resident Chris Hiller sat nearby, waiting to ensure he didn’t feel any initial side effects from the vaccination so he could leave. He had different reasons as to why he decided to get his shot Saturday.

“They’re free and my boss is offering us $100 gift cards to a restaurant, so I figured I should probably do it,” he said. His boss also gave him and his coworker Saturday off to go get vaccinated.

Hiller, a 19-year-old arborist who dropped out of high school to work, too had originally experienced some hesitation in getting vaccinated.

“I’m terrified of needles,” he said. “That’s the only hesitation.”

Others Hiller knows are also hesitant to get vaccinated.

“I definitely see it around but, I mean, it’s understandable,” he said. “We just got this vaccine and it was made and produced within, what, a year? How many things made in the first year are great?”

But around noon, just an hour after the clinic opened its doors to the public, the public health office workers and nurses were already encountering some downtime. Amid syringes and orange biohazard disposal buckets sitting on fold-out tables, they joked about walking across Railroad Avenue to the grocery store announcing their walk-in clinic on the PA system.

Syringes sit inside a plastic box in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Garfield County Nurse Manager Sara Brainard had high expectations for a good turnout.

“I think we’ve done about 50,” she said of the number of vaccinations. “We prefer 100 an hour.”

In other words, the ultimate goal was to administer and deplete all 500 vaccinations by 2 p.m. — closing time.

“I feel like there’s a delay because people have been wanting to wait and see if it’s OK and safe,” Brainard said of vaccinations. “We are here when you’re ready.”

Two more free, walk-in vaccination clinics are scheduled in Rifle, including one to be held at the Cottonwood Mobile Home Park. New Castle and Glenwood Springs also have clinics scheduled, but Rifle selected to host most clinics for a reason.

“I feel like it’s a population that works long hours and we’re trying to reduce as many barriers as possible,” Brainard said.

McCarroll said if public health can continue to get more people to come and get vaccinated then, “Hey, no problem.”

“They made it very easy, very comfortable,” she said. “And, like, some people will say, if you get the shot you might get this you might get that. But I feel pretty good. Yeah, I was a little sore, but I was able to go to work yesterday.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com


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