On January 6, 2021 residents of Rock Ridge Residential Care Center rolled up their sleeves to receive their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and by doing so gave hope to many in the community.

“We lost some residents [this past year] to COVID-19 and it was heartbreaking,” Rock Ridge Administrator Jodie Bevans said in an email interview. “I feel an incredible sense of relief knowing that by receiving the vaccine we could be saving many lives.”

Benton County Public Health with the assistance of La Grange Pharmacy (Vinton) administered the first of what will eventually be two doses of the vaccine to the care center’s residents.

All but two Rock Ridge staff members also received the vaccine on January 6—those not receiving it declined vaccination at this time, Bevans explained.

The second Moderna dose will be administered to Rock Ridge residents and staff 28 days from the first as is recommended by the vaccine manufacturer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is to be given in the muscle of the upper arm and—based on clinical trials—has shown a 94.1 percent efficacy at “preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected.”

Administering the vaccine was a fast process, Bevans said, due to the time sensitivity involved once the vaccine is removed from refrigeration.

“The pharmacist [injected] one person at a time, while another one drew the medication into syringes,” Bevans said.

The CDC lists pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site along with chills, tiredness, and headache as the most common side effects of the Moderna vaccine; side effects were more common after the second dose in clinical trials.

Three Rock Ridge residents reported some side effects from the vaccine including sore arm, elevated temperature, and muscle aches.

“But they tell me it was much less [severe] than when they actually had COVID-19,” Bevans said.

The past year has not been an easy one for the residents of Rock Ridge making the events of January 6 all the more important.

“It has been hard adjusting to the pandemic. The residents and family members were very sad to have visitation restrictions put in place however family members continued to visit frequently and refused to let the pandemic separate them from their loved ones,” Bevans said.

Members of the greater Shellsburg community also stepped up to help Rock Ridge’s residents.

“Donna Merchant and Diane Wachal relentlessly made masks for our home, Roy Fish [Roy’s Grocery] delivered supplies to the residents free of charge, Julie Hoffman [Nurse Practitioner, UnityPoint-Shellsburg] made house calls, and USA Communications took care of the phones so residents could reach their loved ones.”

Bevans said the Benton County Cattlemen’s Association and members of the Shellsburg American Legion also provided a meal to the residents free-of-charge, while students from nearby Shellsburg Elementary School provided residents support in another special way.

“One of my favorite memories of this past year is from the children at Shellsburg Elementary who wrote love letters filled with encouragement.”

Bevans said this past year has really shown what it means to be a member of the Shellsburg community.

“The small community of Shellsburg pulls together when times get tough—that makes me very proud and thankful.”

And that includes residents of Rock Ridge who by rolling up their sleeves on January 6, gave hope to their community that better days lie ahead.