FRANKLIN — Teche Action Clinic added to its playbook this week in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, Teche CEO Dr. Gary Wiltz was the first member of the staff of the 15 Teche Action Clinics to receive the Moderna vaccine.
“I wanted to set the example, as we began the process of protecting them, our front line workers. I felt like breaking out in the song ‘At Last’ by Etta James, because this fight is almost a year old,” Wiltz said.
“We received 300 initial doses of the Moderna vaccine, and so after we take care of our staff, we will begin the process of prioritizing our patients who are 70 years of age or older to begin preparation for them to receive the vaccine.”
Wiltz said the Moderna vaccine, along with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are 95 percent effective against COVID-19. Both are two innoculations that are given roughly 28 days apart.
“As long as we receive the vaccines, we will administer them,” he said.
Wiltz said if anyone has any side effects from taking the vaccine, they will be minimal, like a small headache or an ache in the arm. “Whatever it is, it’s worth the price to have the protection you’re going to have in fighting the virus,” he said.
Teche Action Clinic Chief Health Information Officer Dr. Jennifer Fabre said the uniqueness of the vaccines is what makes it such a sure bet in fighting COVID-19.
“They use a messenger molecule, so there is no risk that anyone will contract the virus. This is a potential solution to this horrible crisis that we have been going through,” she said.
Teche Action Dental Director Dr. Kimberly S. Bibbins said she recommends anyone in South Louisiana get the vaccine.
“As a dental oral health provider, I think everyone should do research,” she said. “I decided to protect myself, and my family.”
In December the clinic tested 1,000 St. Mary Parish residents for COVID-19, thanks to a grant received as part of a research study.
Wiltz said the clinic was the only community health center in the state to receive the grant to conduct the testing, which was in two parts — one a nasal swab and the other, a blood test, to find persons who have antibodies to fight the virus.
“I am very happy to say that among all 1,000 tests, we found 100 persons who had antibodies in their blood to fight the virus. This makes their plasma valuable to fight COVID-19, by giving a blood transfusion to anyone who is critical with the virus,” he said.
On Wednesday, Wiltz held a private blood drive with 15 of the people who were found to have the antibodies so that they could donate their blood plasma to be used in the fight. He said all of the plasma donations will stay in Louisiana.
Teche Action Clinic teamed up with LifeShare Blood Center of Baton Rouge to draw the blood samples under the theme “Share your power.”
Mary Simmons of Franklin is one of the people whose blood has the antibodies. She plans to take the vaccine as a precaution, if it becomes available to her.
“If my blood will help someone live, well I’m alright with that,” she said.
Charles Carter, also of Franklin, is another person who is earmarked to donate blood plasma.
“It’s my religion to help someone in need. When Dr. Wiltz informed me that my blood plasma could help someone, I was willing to donate,” Carter said.
“I was taught that if I can help someone that is need, I should do it.”