By Tim Gardner
Avery County is prepared to continue the fight against COVID-19 out into the various communities the county encompasses via two mobile units where vaccines will be administered and setting up mobile vaccination clinics wherever they are needed.
Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. said he initially expected that the county’s mobile vaccination operation would start within two weeks. But on Monday, he revealed that the county’s first vaccination clinic will be held this Saturday, February 20th at Riverside School, located at 8020 US Highway 19-E South in the Ingalls Community from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. This vaccination clinic is by appointment only. Those wishing to use this mobile clinic should phone the county’s vaccine appointment call center (828) 733-8273 to schedule an appointment. The call center is open from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Barrier, Jr. cautioned that the success of the initiative largely depends on how many vaccines the county receives and when the state plans on increasing the county’s allotment.
“We’re limited,” he stated “If we’re going to go to the farthest parts of the county, I hope we can vaccinate at least 100 people. We want to exceed expectations, but the state is limiting us on exceeding expectations. If they give us (the vaccine), we’ll keep getting as much of it out as possible.”
The county will be continuing its administration of second dose vaccines for those who are 75 years of age and older. First doses are being held for those 65 years of age and older.
Initially, the two mobile units will be to go out into the county’s communities and vaccinate Avery residents. As the State of North Carolina continues with its vaccination phases system, Avery County will be setting up the mobile trailers at important sites for ease of access.
“One of the mobile unit trailers is designated strictly for the health department. It’s going to be our vaccination and immunization trailer where they can actually go out and do vaccinations now. We can go to all the schools and do them. Later on, when COVID-19 is over, we can send the trailers out for flu shots and take them to various parts of the county of for other health-related purposes,” Barrier, Jr. added.
The second trailer is currently prioritized to be the county’s second mobile vaccination unit. But Barrier, Jr. said in the near future, the mobile trailer will function as the county emergency services department’s new mobile command unit.
“Anything that is going on at the vaccination site goes through that mobile command unit first. And anything that the vaccination people need, it goes through command, no matter what that may be” Barrier, Jr. declared. “After Covid-19 comes to an end, it will become our mobile command center for emergency and related happenings in the county. It will be a tremendous plus for our county.”
Barrier, Jr. said the county first ordered the two units in November 2020 and they were paid for through grant money obtained through the Federal CARES Act. But the county was delayed in getting the mobile units due to MO GreatDane, the company that built the trailers, experienced a backlog in air conditioning and heating units being installed in the trailers due to the pandemic.
After a brief period in which the county received zero shipments of the vaccine, it then received around 200 first doses, and the county received a similar allotment for this week. As of Feb. 8, the state has received 1,097,475 first doses and 603,550 second doses from the federal government.
According to state, county and Toe River Health District statistics, Avery County has administered a total of 2,877 doses of the vaccine, with 2,643 being first doses and 234 being second doses. During the first two to three weeks of the vaccination distribution, the county could administer between 400 to 700 first doses of the vaccine due to large shipments from the state of the Moderna vaccine.