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Delaware begins giving COVID-19 vaccine to seniors with Wilmington 'soft launch'


Jeanne Kuang   | Delaware News Journal
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Delaware officials began administering COVID-19 vaccines to members of the public who are 65 or older on Monday. 

Hundreds of seniors received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine at a site the Delaware Emergency Management Agency set up at the Salesianum School in Wilmington.

In total, more than 950 people got the vaccine on Monday, including some health care workers from the first phase of the state's vaccine distribution system.

The event was a "soft launch" of the state's prepared rollout of the vaccine to its phase 1B group this week. 

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"We feel like we're slowly coming out of [phase] 1A which is those front-line health care workers and ready to do 65 and older," Delaware Emergency Management Agency Director AJ Schall said. "I think they're excited that the end is in sight."

The agency asked community groups, including some of Wilmington's senior organizations, to invite local residents who are 65 or older to get the vaccine on Monday. It was a "trial" for the state, "to see how many people we could get through per hour," DEMA spokesman Jeff Sands said. 

A line trailed out of the Salesianum gym onto the sidewalk. So many showed up that some had to be turned away, Sands said.

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Florence Dixon was one of the recipients and said she hoped anyone who could would agree to get a vaccine.

"I was a little skeptical, but I said, it's in God's hands and I was coming out to get it," she said. 

Those who received a shot will be able to sign up for the second dose through an online registration system that the state plans to launch this week, Sands said.

The system will be similar to the state's testing apparatus, with both Delaware-run and private pharmacy sites available. 

The Monday launch came after some who do not qualify for early vaccine access were able to get doses at a drive-thru event in Dover on Saturday intended to get remaining members of the highest priority group vaccinated.

As of mid-day Monday, the state has distributed more than 43,000 of its 77,600 doses of the vaccine, according to Delaware's vaccine tracking website.

In the week that ended last Friday, Delaware recorded 4,938 new coronavirus cases, a positivity rate that is slightly lower than the prior week's record, but still higher than it was at the end of 2020. 

There are 434 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. Since the pandemic hit Delaware last March, more than 70,000 people have tested positive and 1,016 have died.

Contact Jeanne Kuang at jkuang@delawareonline.com.