While the music over the supermarket intercom coincidentally played Pat Benatar’s 1980 classic “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” school nurses in communities surrounding the Mullica Hill ShopRite in Gloucester County lined up to receive their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. Among those in line on Jan. 11, the second day the vaccine was available to school nurses, were Deptford’s Josephine Gazzola, Kim Helfand, and Bonnie Boucher; Pitman’s Sarah Weng; and Delsea Regional’s Cindy Mendenhall.

It’s important to believe in the science.

Boucher explained that after hearing the news that ShopRite would be dispensing the vaccine, school nurses had been texting each other for the latest news on when the vaccine would be available to them.

“Communicating with each other got us here today,” Boucher said.

Pitman school nurse Sarah Weng receives her first COVID-19 vaccine shot at the ShopRite pharmacy in Mullica Hill from staff pharmacist Adam Fanelle.

ShopRite staff pharmacist Adam Fanelle said that he could tell the moment when school nurses started tweeting about being able to get the vaccine. That’s when the calls started pouring in for appointments.

Those currently eligible for the vaccine choose an appointment time—at the Mullica Hill ShopRite appointment are made on the hour and half-hour. You should set aside an hour for the appointment. The line was not long on Jan. 11 at 1 p.m. but the paperwork takes about 10 minutes to complete. Health care professionals Niketia Walker and Jessica Hollembeak guide those receiving the vaccine through the paperwork and the overall process. You’ll then spend about another 10 minutes with the pharmacists as they set up your dose and enter the appropriate data into the computer.

We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After you receive the shot, which takes less than 10 seconds, you are required to wait in seating area for at least 15 minutes to ensure that you do not have an allergic reaction. Nationwide, such reactions have been rare.

The wait didn’t bother Weng, who in addition to being one of the first school nurses in the state to receive the vaccine, had also been among the school nurses who volunteered at COVID-19 testing sites in Gloucester County on the day they first opened in April.

School nurses from Deptford, who were among the first NJEA members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, show off their vaccination cards in the ShopRite pharmacy in Mullica Hill. From left: Bonnie Boucher, Josephine Gazzola, and Kim Helfand.

“Woohoo! Vaccine #1 in the bag!” Weng exclaimed proudly on her Facebook page from the ShopRite parking lot as she sported the Band-Aid on her upper arm.

Despite the wait time, the school nurses from Deptford followed the adage to leave no one behind.

“I’m holding everyone up,” Gazzola joked, being the last of three to receive her shot.

All of the nurses were optimistic about a future in which everyone who can receive it, takes the vaccine.

“It feels like we’re truly turning a corner,” said Mendenhall.

Helfand, a nurse at Deptford High School who serves as the district’s head nurse, said that she would recommend that people treat the vaccine as an extra layer of safety and for the time being continue social distancing practices and wear masks.

“The science is there behind the shots,” Helfand said. “They took all the steps to get the approval. Nothing was skipped over. It’s important to believe in the science. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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