'Get my shot': Vaccine clinics see increasing demand amid omicron fears

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

A week ago, hardly anyone showed up to LifePath Christian Ministries' COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

But that changed quite suddenly, due in part to news of a more transmissible variant, omicron, and rising hospitalizations across the region.

"Since about Sunday night, we've just seen a massive increase," said Norman Humber, the nonprofit's CEO. "We're a one-stop shop for individuals that either don't have the vaccine or are needing to get boosters."

>> Like what you're reading? Consider subscribing to The York Dispatch.

On Wednesday, more than 75 had signed up to attend the Wednesday clinic, which provided both COVID-19 and seasonal flu shots and boosters.

Some residents who attended said it was the first time they were getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Others were returning for their second dose.

WellSpan community paramedic Tillie Oatman completes a COVID-19 vaccination, given to Marina Pylypenko of York City, during a vaccination clinic at LifePath Christian Ministries Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. LifePath partnered with community organizations to offer the clinic, providing free COVID-19 shots, boosters and flu shots at its York City men's shelter. The clinic provided vaccinations for about 70 people. Bill Kalina photo

York City resident Marina Pylypenko, who decided to receive her coronavirus booster Wednesday, had a simple reason.

"I don't want to get COVID," she said. "I heard people die from it, so I want to get my shot and be safe." 

With a table in the back of the shelter stocked full of chips, Gatorade and water, employees from WellSpan and Family First Health stood ready to guide residents through the vaccination process. 

The LifePath Men's Shelter, located at 367 W. Market St., served as an ideal location for those nearby to pop in and receive their shot with ease.

"I'm glad that they can give the vaccine to everybody," Pylypenko said. "That's wonderful."

Healthy York County Coalition representative Natalie Williams gets a COVID vaccination from WellSpan community paramedic Tillie Oatman during a vaccination clinic at LifePath Christian Ministries Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. LifePath partnered with community organizations like Healthy York to offer the clinic, providing free COVID-19 shots, boosters and flu shots at its York City men's shelter. Vaccines for age-eligible children were also available. The clinic provided vaccinations for about 70 people. Bill Kalina photo

Across the country, the emergence of the omicron variant has led to a redoubling of efforts to vaccinate the public, although it remains unclear how effective the existing vaccines will be against the new variant.

“Nobody really loves getting a shot,” former President Barack Obama told students at an elementary school in Washington state on Tuesday. “I don’t love getting a shot. But I do it because it’s going to help keep me healthy.”

Today’s shots do protect against delta and other versions of the virus that already are rampaging, regardless of whether omicron spreads or fizzles. The U.S. and other countries are urging people eligible for boosters not to wait because the extra dose causes a huge burst of virus-fighting antibodies.

“People who are on the fence about whether to get vaccinated should see a great reason to get vaccinated," said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School. "People who haven’t yet gotten their boosters and are eligible should get their boosters. And then I think we need to let the scientists and the public health practitioners do their work."

READ MORE: WellSpan delays nonemergency procedures amid spiking COVID-19 cases

Back in York at LifePath Christian Ministries, WellSpan paramedic Tillie Oatman had put shots in the arms of five people by 11 a.m. Many who received shots from Oatman simply said they were happy the clinic was available.

"It's really good to be able to give back to the community, to be able to provide this service for our underserved population and really make it easier for folks to get vaccines," she said.

The surging demand helps motivate health care professionals, she added, and motivates her to keep working.

Christopher Rowe of York City receives a flu shot from WellSpan community paramedic Stephanie White at a vaccination clinic at LifePath Christian Ministries Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. LifePath partnered with various community organizations to offer the clinic, providing free COVID-19 shots, boosters and flu shots at its York City men's shelter. Vaccines for age-eligible children were also available. Bill Kalina photo

"It really does give me hope that we will eventually come out of the other side of this pandemic," Oatman said. "It's really nice to see that (LifePath) was able to get the community to come together and get the word out."

The next vaccine clinic being offered by LifePath Christian Ministries is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29. 

A $25 gift card and goodie bag will be provided after vaccination is complete.

To schedule an appointment, call 717-472-8905 or 717-699-8445.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at  @tina_locurto. Please consider subscribing to support local journalism.