By Juli McDonald

WORCESTER (CBS) – Worcester CVS pharmacist Vicki Saengkheune remembers fear one year ago from her customers who needed their medication in the early weeks of the pandemic, and her own.

“Being afraid I would bring home the virus to my parents who are older, elderly, immunocompromised. My father-in-law had a heart attack a few months ago and my mom has Crohn’s disease,” the pharmacy manager recalled.

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But with the arrival of a vaccine, now hope is so much greater than fear. Vicki is working seven days a week immunizing the community.

“This vaccine is making a huge impact in the world and to be a part of that is so significant to me,” Saengkheune said.

She’s a kind, caring face for those eager to get their shots, and a source of comfort for those who are afraid. In December, Vicki began giving the vaccine at long-term care facilities. She remembers a man in his 90s who didn’t want it, but whose family was desperate to see him.

“She was crying and saying, ‘Dad, this is literally the only way I’m going to be able to see you. This is the only way I’m going to be able to hug you and kiss you.’ A tear fell down his face and he lifted his arm up and I immunized him,” she said.

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Vicki cried behind her face shield that day, and the elderly man’s daughter cried on the phone. Every day now, Vicki’s job is helping people get back to what matters most.

“Hug their families again, have get togethers, have celebrations, birthdays, holidays. Restore a sense of normalcy we’ve all yearned for after this tough year. It just feels so good,” she said.

One of Vicki’s most rewarding moments was immunizing her parents and in-laws… the people who care for her kids, while she cares for strangers.

“We’re going to be okay,” she said. “We’re going to get through this together.”

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Visit www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine or Mass.Gov/CovidVaccine to find a vaccine appointment.

Juli McDonald