By Tim Gardner
After starting the distribution of Coronavirus vaccines for anyone age 75 or older in Avery County last week, that age group number has been lowered, following State of North Carolina protocol. Citizens of the county age 65 or older may begin getting the vaccine to combat the potentially deadly disease starting Wednesday, January 20th.
Those meeting this age criteria can be vaccinated at the county’s Agriculture Extension Center, located at 661 Vale Road (one-half mile above Ingles Markets) in Newland. Vaccinations will also be given to the age group there again on Thursday, January 21 and Friday, January 22nd.
They will again be available at the Agriculture Extension Center the following week—on Tuesday, January 26th, as well as on Wednesday, January 27th and Thursday, January 28th.
The vaccines will be given from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on each of those days during the two-week time period. No appointment is necessary; just show up to get the vaccine.
There is no cost for the vaccine and anyone who wants it can receive it.
Those who want to get the vaccine during the available times should bring their insurance card and wear appropriate clothing for easy access to have the vaccination in their upper arm. Masks are required to be worn by all receiving the vaccine.
Any person age 65 or older who has a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners should contact his or her physician for written documentation to present to the nurse giving the shot in order to receive the vaccine.
For questions about the vaccinations for this age group in Avery County, call: (828) 733-8273.
The new age criteria to receive the vaccine put people age 65 and older ahead of other front-line essential workers, such as firefighters and teachers. Under the old plan, the next groups to qualify for vaccination after people 75 and older would have been front-line health care workers and essential workers age 50 and older, followed by front-line health and essential workers of any age.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the state’s goal is to make the prioritization plan easier to understand and execute. North Carolina changed to a simplified system with five groups, doing away with different phases and built-in subcategories that were to be used to prioritize who gets the vaccine.
The new eligibility rules partially match a change in guidelines announced by the federal government on January 12th, because healthcare officials contend that vaccinating everyone 65 and older would be simpler and make the process go faster.
The Toe River Health District (TRHD), which encompasses health departments in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, NC counties requests that those who want to get the vaccine should email their name and phone number to: [email protected]; [email protected]; or [email protected] toeriverhealth.org depending on their county of residence.
This procedure applies to all residents of Mitchell and Yancey counties and those other than the 65 years or older age group in Avery County.
Health District representatives will then call or email those who ask for the vaccination (besides the 65-plus age group in Avery County) to put their name in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services computer system.
The NCHHHS will determine priority of those who request the vaccine and notify the applicants what priority group they are in. The NCHHS schedules those requesting the vaccine in groups of ten since the vaccine doses are available in 10 dose vials. Applicants will be notified when you are scheduled to receive the vaccine.
More information on vaccine scheduling in the Toe River Health District counties can be obtained by calling its local health departments, which those without email access are encouraged to do:
Avery Co. Health Department (828)-733-6031
Mitchell Co. Health Department (828)-688-2371
Yancey Co. Health Department (828)-682-6118.
Supplies of the vaccine are currently limited and it may be several months before vaccines are available to every resident of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties, according to TRHD officials.
All healthcare professional workers strongly urge all people to continue to wear a mask, wash their hands and maintain a social distance of at least six feet away from others at all times.