June Leffler Published

More West Virginians “Finally Full Of Hope” As Thousands Show Up To Get Vaccine


In a world with large gatherings and even intimate family occasions being canceled, mass vaccination events have become something to look forward to for those getting their shot in the arm.

“I heard people who were 80 and older say they hadn’t left their house since March, this is the first time they get to be around people, and that they were finally full of hope,” said Dr. Sherri Young, the director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.

West Virginia is vaccinating residents as quickly as possible. Since the start of the year, more than 100,000 senior citizens and many frontline workers have been able to get two shots to fully vaccinate themselves from the coronavirus.

In Charleston, the Coliseum and Convention Center used to house concerts and other events. Now it is the go-to site for Kanawha County residents to get their first or second dose. Most weekends, thousands of people drive to the capital city from nearby towns.


June Leffler/ WVPB
Vaccinating Kanawha County residents is a team effort.

Last Saturday, dozens of cars idled in lines outside so medical workers could help anyone with mobility issues get a shot right through their car door.

But most folks came inside the center, standing in socially distanced lines to get registered. On the main floor, over a hundred people had already been seated. There they would get a shot and be monitored for any adverse reactions before going home.

Gloria Pauley gave herself plenty of time to drive to the downtown facility and wait in line for her second dose.

“My first one, I was in here only about 15 minutes,” Pauley said. “This is a little longer, but I can be patient about this.”

Pauley was one of 2,000 people who got their second dose that day. She knew when she left she’ll be fully vaccinated, just like her husband and a few others in her family.

“At least when we gather, we can take off a mask occasionally. We’ve made it this far, so we’re anxious to keep going for a couple of years,” she said.

Others came in for their first time. More than 1,700 got a call over the past 24 hours that it was their lucky day.

“I know that’s a little short notice,” Young said. “But I think by the attendance that you see here, that people were more than willing to drop what they were doing on a Saturday to come get their vaccine.”

Aside from local health department workers, most everyone on the floor was a senior citizen. So 34-year-old Krista Neophytou stood out. She noticed that fact too, and was even a little self-conscious. But her job pushed her to the front of the line. She works as a therapist for an addiction health center and social services.

“We are in the home working with foster youth and all the other at-risk youth in the state,” Neophytou said. “I got the email, and here I am.”

As she got her shot, she let out a quick yelp and then a laugh. After that, she joined others simply to wait so staff could monitor for any adverse reactions.


June Leffler/ WVPB
34-year-old Krista Neophytou is a therapist in Charleston, WV. She works with youth in foster homes and adults with substance use disorder.

As 71- year-old Rick Crowder sat nearby before heading home, he felt fine, but said he’d heard the second dose could put him under the weather.

“It’s a small price to pay, honey, to be able to get this vaccine… trust me I have no complaints,” he said.

Crowder felt lucky to get the vaccine, and he is. While 100,000 plus people have been fully vaccinated, 1.5 million people in West Virginia have yet to receive their first shot. State officials continue work to establish vaccination clinics in the state’s many rural counties as well as for underserved populations.