FRANKLIN — Seniors 70 years old and older can get a free COVID-19 vaccine at Franklin Foundation.

On Tuesday afternoon, the hospital became the first in the parish to move into what the state Department of Health calls Phase 1B, Tier 1, which allows them to offer vaccines.

Stephanie Guidry, CEO of Franklin Foundation, said Franklin Foundation has chosen to offer the vaccine free of charge to residents of St. Mary Parish, regardless of whether they are a patient of the hospital or whether they have any ties to the hospital.

“Patients, or non patients, we’re in this for our community,” Guidry said.

The hospital has opened a vaccine hotline at 337-907-6585.

“We’ve been receiving the Pfizer vaccine. That’s not to say we won’t get the Moderna vaccine. It’s really up to the state Department of Health,” Guidry said.

Because the state has set the vaccine to begin with persons 70 years of age or older, Guidry said seniors are asked to call 337-907-6585 to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.

“If we do not have vaccines, seniors will hear a recording that asks them to keep checking,” Guidry said. “However, if we do, a person will answer and schedule their appointment.”

She said at the moment, the hospital has minimal doses of the vaccine.

Once that amount is exhausted, another shipment is expected to arrive in a week or so.

Vietnam veteran Curley H. Lyons, 82 of Baldwin, said he “couldn’t wait to take the vaccine. I’ve been hiding in the house since March. I’m not worried about any side effects too. I’ve been taking shots forever.

“This vaccine is a life saver! It’s God sent!”

Albert Zuniga of Franklin, said getting the vaccine, “was simple and easy.”

Monica Morris of Franklin said she was, “thrilled to death to get the vaccine.”

“Hopefully this will eliminate a lot of anxiety. At first, we were really concerned, because no one was really giving it out. I got on the phone and called everybody and got them on the list.”

Marlene Templet, an LPN in the Emergency Room at Franklin Foundation, said she felt “wonderful” about inoculating the community.

“It’s an incredible feeling to know that you’re keeping everyone safe.”

Franklin Foundation Marketing Director Kevin Romero said the hospital entered into Phase 1A in mid December, when they began inoculating the staff with the Pfizer vaccine.

“The Pfizer vaccination is actually a two step process. Persons who receive it today, will have to come back in 21 days to receive a second inoculation.”

Guidry said she was in the first group in December to receive the initial dose of the vaccine, and recently, she took the second dose.

“I had a sore arm, and that’s about it when I took the first one. After I took the second dose, I had a sore arm again, and was a bit achy during a part of the day, but it eventually resolved itself.”

Longtime staff member Dr. Roland Degeyter was the first person to receive the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

“I had no problems when I received the first dose, and none after I received the second, he said.”

“I’m a firm believer in vaccines. I’ve been taking the flu shot since 1972-73. I think the world would be a lot different if we had no vaccines,” Degeyter said.

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