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story.lead_photo.caption Many Kingdom Care Senior Living residents and employees received the COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday. Photo by Submitted by Kingdom Care Senior Living

For some senior living residents, the end of a dark period of isolation is in sight.

Kingdom Care Senior Living distributed the first round of COVID-19 vaccines Saturday to residents and employees.

"I'm so happy about it," Mildred Dowling, 95, said. "I've just been praying that this day would arrive as soon as possible."

In Missouri, health care workers and long-term care facilities are the first in line for the vaccine. Eventually, all Missouri residents will have access to the vaccine.

Dowling could hardly wait for her turn.

"I said I'd run to be the first in line if necessary," she said. "I don't hesitate at all to have the vaccine."

Dowling has lived at Kingdom Care, formerly known as Fulton Presbyterian Manor, since 2018. She was familiar with the facility because her father lived there. She expected to be close to her son, Jim Dowling, who works as a lawyer in Fulton.

But Dowling and her fellow residents haven't had the chance to visit in-person with their families in months, no matter how close they live. Instead, they've had to rely on Zoom sessions and telephone calls.

Except for sitting on the porch on days of pleasant weather, Dowling hasn't had the opportunity to step outside.

"I have not been outside of this building in a long, long, long time," Dowling said.

The hope is that once vaccinated, residents will be able to safely see their families and friends again without risking severe illness. Older adults suffering from COVID-19 are at a higher risk of hospitalization and death.

"It's been all the talk for the last couple of weeks," administrator Dawn Smith said of the vaccinations. "I would say it's definitely been a morale booster between staff and residents."

The vaccines were administered with the assistance of Walgreens. Kingdom Care received the Moderna vaccine. It requires two doses 28 days apart, so the second day of vaccinations at the facility is scheduled for Jan. 30.

Smith said in her 17-year career as an assisted living administrator, she's never had to deal with anything like this.

"It's taking a team effort to get through it," she said. "We've been making it by just loving on our residents and loving on each other, knowing at some point this will end."

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