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caption: Shakeitha Howard, a medical assistant at Carolyn Downs, prepares to administer the first dose of a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for a healthcare worker on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccine clinic in Renton. 
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Shakeitha Howard, a medical assistant at Carolyn Downs, prepares to administer the first dose of a Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for a healthcare worker on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccine clinic in Renton.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

'Worth every minute.' Drive-through vaccines kick off in Renton

Farrah Azur, a dental hygienist, debated getting the Covid vaccine.

“I was nervous earlier,” she said. “Because of the news of people fainting.”

But on Thursday morning, she signed up, and that evening was in a line of cars at an old emissions site in Renton, where she would receive the Moderna version of the vaccine. It was a fortuitous coincidence: Emissions testing in Washington state ceased on January 1, 2020; several of the sites were converted to coronavirus testing months later.

Azur said she was swayed by seeing her coworkers at HealthPoint sign up. Thursday was the third night for vaccines here.

caption: Chideya Wilson, a medical assistant at Carolyn Downs prepares to administer the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for Laura Endres, a pharmacist at Country Doctor Community Health Center on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccination clinic for healthcare workers in Renton.
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Chideya Wilson, a medical assistant at Carolyn Downs prepares to administer the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for Laura Endres, a pharmacist at Country Doctor Community Health Center on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccination clinic for healthcare workers in Renton.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

She said she had coronavirus a month ago. She contracted it from her sister, who believes she got infected in a class. The man sitting behind her appeared to have symptoms, she said, and her sister got sick two or three days later.

Azur debated waiting a year. “But it’s there, and I have that advantage,” she said.

As it happened, the vaccinator in her line had also recently recovered from coronavirus.

Rebecca Crandell, a medical assistant at HealthPoint, doesn’t know how she got sick, but doesn’t believe it was from work. She said she was sick for 12 days, and her three children got sick too.

“It was horrible,” she said. “Every muscle in my body twitched at the same time. I had the worst headache.”

Crandell’s chipper mood betrayed that she had been sick recently. “I love giving shots,” she said. “We get cold and miserable but it’s worth every minute.”

caption: A drive-thru vaccine clinic for healthcare workers is shown on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a former emissions testing site in Renton.
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A drive-thru vaccine clinic for healthcare workers is shown on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a former emissions testing site in Renton.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Crandell kept a tidy station. The 3ml syringes were lined up like toy soldiers, and Band-Aids were at the ready. In the middle was a tiny clear glass vial – the vaccine itself. It looked shiny under the bright lights. Ten doses per vial.

Her supervisor, Heather Stephen-Selby said they predicted 800 health care workers would get vaccines by the end of the week. Stephen-Selby, director of clinical support at HealthPoint, said it took just two weeks to set up the old emissions site for vaccines.

Stephen-Selby and Crandell have war stories from the testing. A kid punched Stephen-Selby after she put a swab up his nose. Crandell said she managed to wrangle a child with autism, surprising his dad, who worried how it would go.

After being vaccinated, the health workers must wait 15 minutes in their cars. Most everyone drove off, some waving their hands in the air in a show of celebration. But one person felt tingles in their hands, which spread to their legs, and medics were called out of an abundance of caution.

caption: Tamara Bass, a medical assistant at Neighborcare Health, left, administers the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for Neighborcare Physician Lisa Sferra on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccination clinic for healthcare workers in Renton.
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Tamara Bass, a medical assistant at Neighborcare Health, left, administers the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for Neighborcare Physician Lisa Sferra on Thursday, January 7, 2021, at a drive-thru vaccination clinic for healthcare workers in Renton.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Back in the line, Jessica Bergstrom, pharmacy director at Neighborcare Health, said the vaccine didn’t hurt. She smiled from behind her mask.

Her vaccinator was Tamara Bass, a medical assistant and program manager at Neighborcare.

“Just wait until tomorrow,” Bass said.