By Nathan Ham
Three separate COVID-19 vaccine shipments have arrived at AppHealthCare for Watauga County residents, totaling 1,975 vaccines. According to Melissa Bracey, the Director of Communications and Compliance for AppHealthCare, the health department has distributed vaccines to 406 people. AppHealthCare is anticipating the arrival of another 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.
The first shipment to arrive was 600 doses of the Moderna vaccine on December 22, followed by 975 doses of the Pfizer vaccine a week later and 400 additional doses of the Moderna vaccine on January 4. The first round of vaccine distribution went to high-risk healthcare workers (group titled 1A) while the next round of vaccines will go to people in the county aged 75 and older (group titled 1B).
“We received the first shipments of the vaccine the week of Christmas and have worked consistently since then to schedule vaccine appointments. One clear point that’s important is that the allocation of vaccines does not necessarily line up with the number of people who qualify. For 1A high-risk healthcare workers, there has been a process to route the appropriate people based on the phased plan announced by NC DHHS which we are bound to follow. This is a more narrow group, but as we move forward next week into phase 1B, group 1 for ages 75 and older, we expect more vaccines to be administered,” Bracey explained.
Bracey says that the goal is to complete vaccinations at long-term health facilities this week and then prepare for a mass vaccination event for Watauga County senior citizens age 75 and older. Individuals that fall under the 1A category are health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas, health care workers administering the vaccine and long term care staff and residents like people in adult, family, and group homes.
“Those efforts will utilize about 300 doses. In addition, we have vaccinated an additional 245 people this week at vaccine clinics in Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga Counties. Many facilities have been covered with the federal pharmacy program, but some were not. Those facility staff and residents are at high risk and are a priority for us, and there are some more logistics to consider that we have worked through prior to arriving at these facilities,” said Bracey.
Cities and counties all across the country and still working to find the most efficient way to distribute these vaccines to the public. While only a small amount of vaccines have been distributed in the county, those numbers will continue to increase as staff members continue to develop a plan. Keep in mind that many of these same staff members are also working on contact tracing and other COVID-19 responsibilities.
“Our public health team has been involved with a lot of response efforts, and we have continued to set up an infrastructure of staff to administer, learn a new state database required to document vaccine administration, schedule and provide vaccines. This is in addition to the other responsibilities pre-pandemic and response efforts such as testing, contact tracing and case investigation that are involved in this response effort,” Bracey said. “We are working toward building a consistent schedule of vaccinating and testing on set days of the week with Monday and Thursday focused on testing and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday focused on vaccine administration. We are also exploring partner support wherever possible so that we can vaccinate as many people in the phase group as quickly as possible. We are trying our best to balance the various needs of this response effort, and we appreciate everyone’s patience.”
Mass Vaccination Event on Saturday, January 16
In the latest update from AppHealthCare, a date has been set for the mass vaccination event for senior citizens that are in the 75-and-up age category.
“AppHealthCare, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and other local partners are hosting a mass vaccination event on Saturday, January 16 at the Watauga High School for those who are 75 years or older. This event is by appointment only,” Bracey told the High Country Press on Monday morning. “We will be using the information people have already provided in the COVID-19 interest form to schedule appointments for Saturday’s event. We will be reaching out to people to confirm appointments. We are hoping to vaccinate 1,000 eligible individuals at the event.”
How to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine
AppHealthCare has started an online COVID-19 vaccination interest form for those that would like to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible.
The interest form will provide AppHealthCare with basic information about someone in order to determine which phase they will fall in. If someone is eligible for the vaccine in the current phase and has provided a valid email and phone number, they will receive a link to schedule an appointment. If someone is eligible for the vaccine outside the current phase, their information will be collected and they will receive a notification when it is their turn to get the vaccine. The information someone provides will be kept private and secure. AppHealthCare will not ask for any personal information like credit cards, passwords, social security numbers, etc.
“We are excited to announce the vaccine interest form and provide a way for people to take action and express their interest in the vaccine. We have heard from individuals in our community who are eager to receive the vaccine and they would like a way to provide their information. We are hopeful this will help us organize and coordinate our efforts to distribute the vaccine according to the outlined phases. We encourage everyone to be patient with us as we work through the phases and distribute the vaccine to those who are eligible within the current phase. Everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get it. There is a spot for you when it’s your turn,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.
The vaccine interest form can be complete online here.