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People With Intellectual And Development Disabilities Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine

People with intellectual and developmental disabilities are now receiving their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

EP!C vaccinated about 90 percent of their participants living in a group home, host home, or apartment in the Peoria area on Friday, through the Peoria City/County Health Department.

David Friend was one of those residents who rolled up his sleeve.

"I'm just glad to have it. To be able to do more things. I just wish coronavirus was all over with," he said.

For Friend, one of the things he misses most about normal life is playing basketball. He's a member of the EP!C Bulldogs basketball team, which was benched when the pandemic started last year.

"That was really sad. Basketball and music are my 'get away from the world' kind of thing," Friend said. "It's the place that I go to, without the stress in life."

Ashley Schreck, EP!C's director of marketing, said coming out to get the vaccine marks first time staff have seen their participants in nearly a year.

"We're just grateful that they have the opportunity to be here today, so we can get back to some sort of normal again," Schreck said. "Whether it's in the classroom, or working their jobs, it's a huge benefit for our community that everybody receive this vaccine."

EP!C serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 12 central and southern Illinois counties.

Schreck said while it's nice to see people face-to-face again, it's also bittersweet.

"The hard part is, with COVID, and having to social distance, you can't give hugs and high-fives," Schreck said. "It's kinda an odd type of time, where we're normally giving hugs and high-fives, and loving up on each other, and instead we're giving elbow bumps, and fist bumps, and congratulating people across the room. But it's so exciting to see everybody."

Many residentis haven't been in the EP!C building for almost a year. And they won't make another appearance until it's time to get a booster shot, 28 days from now.

"It's kind of like a family reunion today," Schreck said. "It's going to be sad when they leave, but then they'll come back for their second dose, and we'll do this all over again."

For his part, Friend said he was feeling nervous before getting the vaccine. While getting his shot, he asked his friends and reporters to find some way to distract him from the needle going into his arm.

But when it was over, he was pleasantly surprised. In fact, Friend said he actually hadn't felt anything at all.

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Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio /