COVID-19 update: Leaders across Franklin County are planning to vaccinate when available

Carley Bonk
Chambersburg Public Opinion

People in key positions around Franklin County are starting to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Pennsylvania is still operating in Phase 1A, which means that first responders, medical personnel, the elderly and those considered to have "high-risk" medical conditions are eligible to get vaccinated. 

Although concern for side effects is on many people's minds, overall, most leaders across Franklin County are planning on vaccinating. 

First Responders in Phase 1A

Chambersburg Police Chief Ron Camacho is scheduled to get his second dose on March 10. He received his vaccine in Fulton County and said the first dose was easy, with no side effects.

“Some first responders here from the (Chambersburg Police Department) were offered some slots in Fulton County and we went up to Fulton County to get that," he said. "As soon as I came back from my shot, I was informed I could schedule my shot here in Franklin County.”

He had “no fear” about getting vaccinated. He said there is “no option” other than to get vaccinated.

“Just like many, many people, I’m tired of the lockdowns and the mask-wearing, and hopefully if enough people get shots we can get back to normal,” he said.

He does understand why some people are hesitant to get the vaccine.

“Everyone has their own personal journey," he explained. "I think there was a lot of misinformation put out there from the very beginning of the pandemic. These are all important lessons for all of us to learn going forward.”

Franklin County Sheriff Dane Anthony hasn't received the vaccine yet but after weighing the options, he plans to receive it once it is available. 

"We are on a list and we are doing this through our Department of Emergency Services here in the county," he said. "We're just waiting for our turn."

About 30 people in his office are planning to get it as well, with 10 that are not.

"Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling and what you think is best," he said. "At this point, I would probably sooner get it and have those side effects than to not get it and take a chance of spreading it or getting it or giving it to one of your loved ones or a family member, a friend, a neighbor or a coworker."

The sheriff's office was hit hard with positive cases in December, however, most of the cases were mild.

Surgical ICU Nurse Madison Myers receives the COVID-19 vaccine Friday morning at WellSpan Surgery & Rehabilitation Hospital in York.

More:A COVID-19 vaccination clinic is set to open soon in Franklin County

Civil leaders encourage vaccination

Bob Thomas, formerly a Franklin County commissioner for 24 years, said he and his wife got their first dose on Feb. 3, and their second is scheduled for March 3. They got their first doses while on a standby list. 

“I got a text one morning and told my wife to get ready," he said. "Fifteen minutes later they said can you get in by 10:00, and we said yes.”

He said healthcare professionals in Keystone Health’s vaccination program have done an "outstanding job."

"It’s the managerial leadership that they put in place to make sure it happens right,” he said.

He and his wife had no issues. The only side effect was a little bit of soreness for a couple of days, like with most any vaccination.

“My wife and I both were looking forward to getting it done,” he said. “If you’re eligible to get the vaccine I would encourage someone to get it. In my opinion, that’s the only way we're going to solve this problem.”

Sam Thrush, president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc., intends to get vaccinated at a local pharmacy. He wants to get vaccinated in order to protect his loved ones - as well as the many people he interacts with as part of his job.

He encourages people to take the steps needed to get back to normal, including getting vaccinated and wearing masks.

Many of the events he helps plan each year had to be retooled and the biggest one - IceFest - was canceled altogether. He looks forward to Downtown Chambersburg Inc. and other local organizations being able to hold events like normal again.

“I’m looking forward to when we can give the traditional handshake without thinking about how the other person feels about the handshake,” he said.

Alice Elia, president of Chambersburg Borough Council and director of advancement and public relations at Franklin County Library System also plans to get vaccinated once she is eligible. She has already signed up with WellSpan Health so she will be notified.

She said that she trusts the research and science behind the vaccine's creation, testing, and approval.

“This vaccine and the choice of people to get vaccinated, coupled with continued diligence and following of safety protocols, are the only ways we will return to some semblance of normalcy in society," she said. "The sooner we can mitigate the negative effects of COVID, the sooner we can get back to hugging our families, hanging out with our friends, and supporting our local businesses.”

More:COVID vaccine distribution in Franklin County: What you need to know

Community remains split on vaccination

Valerie Meyers, executive director of the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce, said she is hearing strong opinions both for and against vaccination.

"Community members will come in saying that they're anxious to have things back to normal and that the vaccine is the means to make that happen," she said. "Others, including some members, are adamant about not getting the vaccine, holding to individual rights and some suspicion about its efficacy."

Julia Lehman, Franklin County communications coordinator, said the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services is partnering with WellSpan and Keystone Health to coordinate vaccine distribution according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's  COVID-19 Interim Vaccination Plan

Additionally, the county is working with WellSpan to finalize plans for a comq2munity vaccination clinic in Franklin County. 

The Public Opinion will continue to provide updates on vaccinations in Franklin County as more citizens become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Additional reporting provided by Amber South and Shawn Hardy

Carley Bonk is a Watchdog Reporter for the USA Today Network - Pennsylvania. Her coverage spans across the southcentral region of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at cbonk@publicopinionnews.com or on Twitter at @carls_marie.