Kenner administers first COVID vaccinations

Darcel Spragley, a registered nurse at Kenner Army Health Clinic, administers the first COVID-19 vaccination on Fort Lee to Neal Hudgins, a Fire Department captain, Jan. 4 at Clark Fitness Center. All this week, healthcare providers and medical support personnel, and emergency services and public safety employees will be receiving the Moderna vaccine. The next phases will include critical and essential support personnel, those preparing to deploy, high-risk individuals and then the general post population.

FORT LEE, Va. – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase in Virginia and across the country, Fort Lee saw a sign of hope Jan. 4 when Kenner Army Health Clinic began administering its first round of vaccinations against the disease.

Neal Hudgins, a captain with the Fort Lee Fire Department, was the first to receive the Moderna-provided inoculation. Darcel Spragley, a registered nurse at KAHC, gave him the shot.

“I’m happy to get it,” Hudgins said, adding he hopes to convince others to get vaccinated as well. “The shot didn’t hurt at all. I didn’t even know she did it, actually. I was expecting a pinch, but nothing.”

Hudgins wanted to get the vaccine because his 15-year-old daughter had COVID-19 last fall and suffered the effects from it for about 10 days.

“She had no lung sounds on the right side for three days,” he said. “She had five rough days, but after that, she was fine.”

None of the patients who received the vaccine that morning reported any pain from the shot, Spragley said, and pointed out that even those worried about the momentary discomfort of a needle jab should not let it overshadow the significance of receiving the vaccine.

“You’re getting something that could save your life,” she succinctly stated.

In addition to her nursing duties in the Occupational Health department, Spragley has been working with Kenner’s COVID-19 contact tracing team – determining who may have been exposed to someone with the disease and notifying them as rapidly and sensitively as possible. Between contract tracing and her normal work, she has known many who have been afflicted with COVID.

“I’m hoping more people will realize how very important it is for them to get the vaccine,” Spragley said. “I’m totally on board for it. I hope, with the education we’re providing and the fact sheets we’re giving them, (community members) will see that it’s safe.”

The Moderna vaccine is one of two serums currently approved for use in the United States. The clinic went with that option because the storage requirement is less stringent than the Pfizer version, according to Lt. Col. Nichelle Johnson, KAHC commander. Product delivery began last week and is expected continue as long as supplies are available.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Moderna vaccine is 94.1 percent effective in preventing laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 illness in people who received two doses who had no evidence of being previously infected. The vaccine performed well among people of diverse age, sex, race and ethnicity categories and among persons with underlying medical conditions.

Side effects that happen within seven days of getting vaccinated are common but are mostly mild to moderate, the CDC also reported. Symptoms such as fever, chills, tiredness and body aches were more common after the second dose of the vaccine.

Those who have already had the disease and recovered should consult their health care provider and follow the normal protocols for receiving a vaccine, advised Stephen Pinkerton, the clinic’s public health emergency officer.

“People who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 have some natural immunity to the disease,” he said. “In that circumstance, the vaccine wouldn’t be a thing that I’d say you can’t get, but it wouldn’t be a thing I’d say you would have to rush to get (because) … you’ve got what we all want, the antibodies to fight it.”

Scientists and heath care professionals are not yet sure how long immunity from recovery or vaccinations will last. Pinkerton already has seen some people contract the disease a second time after recovering.

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” he said. “We are in the process now of gathering information.”

Community members who are still uncertain about receiving the newly released COVID-19 vaccines are encouraged to seek additional information from their health care provider or reliable online sources such as the CDC Fact Page available at