By Harley Nefe
AppHealthCare hosted its first mass vaccination event at Watauga High School on Jan. 16, where a total of 1,168 eligible people received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
To be eligible for the vaccine, AppHealthCare scheduled people who are health care workers, long-term care staff and residents as well as anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation. This is considered Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan.
AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene said the event went well, and they had a big team effort, as folks from Watauga Medical Center, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Boone Fire Department, Boone Police Department as well as members of the rotary club and other local partners were present helping.
“We’re really excited about all of the volunteer efforts,” Greene said.
Emergency Services Director for Watauga County Will Holt’s role at the event was to support the logistics, and he also agreed the event went well.
“We made plans for the traffic flow, and we made plans to keep everyone socially distanced — all the measures we can to reduce any risks,” Holt said.
Holt further said there was an early morning rush, but it leveled out, and they were able to keep people from waiting outside.
“We got so many organizations and individual volunteers that signed up to come out and help,” Hold said. “This is just one clinic of many that will be out there, so I encourage everyone to go to AppHealthCare’s website and fill out the volunteer interest form.”
In addition, every volunteer that is working at the vaccination clinics can get the vaccine if they want it.
Dennis O’Neal, who is a sergeant with Boone Police Department, was one of the individuals who received the COVID-19 vaccine shots at the event.
“It was great; didn’t even feel it,” O’Neal said.
AppHealthCare used information people have already provided in the COVID-19 vaccination interest form to schedule appointments for the Jan. 16 event. They then reached out to people to confirm time slots, as vaccinations were given out by appointment only.
“It’s going well,” Greene said. “We’ve had a lot of people who have signed up on our interest form that we aren’t able to get to yet, so we’re trying at this clinic to use appointments because though you’re having to wait for a while, we don’t want people to be waiting for hours, and we don’t want to run out of vaccines.”
Greene further said AppHealthCare will be completely out of stock of first doses of the vaccine by Jan. 19.
“There’s a lot of challenges people are hearing about, and the biggest thing I would say is that we need more vaccines,” Green said. “We can get more people vaccinated if we get more vaccines.”
However, AppHealthCare already received second doses for all the people that had an appointment to get their first dose at the event.
“I don’t want people to be worried if they got their first dose that we’re not going to have a second one,” Greene said.
The second dose mass vaccination clinic is scheduled for Feb. 6 and will also be located at Watauga High School. Everyone who had an appointment for the Jan. 16 clinic will automatically get an appointment for the second dose at the Feb. 6 event.
The timeline between doses of the COVID-19 vaccines depends on what shot someone gets. For the Pfizer vaccine, people need to wait three weeks, give or take a few days, before receiving the second dose. For the Moderna vaccine, people need to wait four weeks.
The first shot helps one’s body recognize the virus and gets the immune system prepared, while the second shot strengthens the immune system’s response.
“Even after they get their second dose, it’s going to take a couple of weeks for their immunity to really be built up,” Greene said. “We want people to continue with all of the prevention that we’ve asked them to do — the three W’s. They should be wearing their mask and distancing and all of that.”
When asked about future vaccination events, Greene said, “We’re of course waiting on our vaccine shipments. Each week we get notified about what we’re going to get the following week, and I think that’s the biggest hold up for us announcing another big clinic.”
According to AppHealthCare’s latest vaccination data, as of Jan. 15 at 12 p.m., 1,400 total Moderna doses have been administered in Watauga County, 820 Moderna doses in Ashe County and 470 Moderna doses in Alleghany. This does not take into account the number of Pfizer doses that have been administered at the vaccination clinic on Jan. 16.
For those who would like to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible, they can fill out AppHealthCare’s online COVID-19 vaccination interest form.
The interest form provides 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,” Greene stated.
The vaccine interest form can be completed online here.