By Nathan Ham
As every state, county and city in the country is trying to figure out how to best vaccinate their respective populations, Watauga County is running into the same issues as most everyone else nationwide. The interest for the vaccine is there, but the vaccine shipments simply aren’t enough to satisfy the demand.
According to NCDHHS Watauga County, the county has administered the first round of the COVID-19 vaccine to 5,480 and has given the second round of the vaccine to 885 people.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the most recent population estimate for Watauga County was 56,177. Of that total, 16.4 percent, or 9,213 people, are age 65 or over and are eligible for the vaccine. Of the 5,480 people that have had the first round of vaccinations, 66 percent, or approximately 3,617 individuals that have gotten the vaccine are 65 years of age or older. The other 34 percent are healthcare workers.
“Even though we have a vaccine for COVID-19, we urge everyone to continue practicing prevention and when you are around others you don’t live with, wear a mask, wait 6 feet and wash your hands often. We are only receiving limited supplies of vaccine right now so it will take some time before everyone is vaccinated. Prevention remains very important in our fight against this virus,” said Jennifer Greene, Health Director at AppHealthCare.
Currently, Group 1 and Group 2 residents are eligible for the vaccine. This includes health care workers with in-person patient contact, long-term care staff and residents, people in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes, continuing care retirement communities and anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
AppHealthCare is planning to do another mass vaccination event at Watauga High School on Saturday, February 6 so anyone who got their first dose on January 16 will be able to get their second dose. The second event will also be by appointment only.
Over the past six weeks, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System has been receiving first dose allocations from NCDHHS which range from 400 to 800 doses per week.
On Tuesday, January 26, ARHS was notified that the entire state of North Carolina will receive 127,125 doses per week, for the next three weeks. Two days later ARHS was informed that Watauga County would receive a total of 500 vaccinations this week (200 for ARHS, 200 for AppHealthCare and 100 for High Country Community Health).
Neighboring Avery County will only receive 200 doses, which will be distributed by Toe River Health Department.
“Our primary service area includes Watauga, Avery and Ashe Counties where the total population is over 100,000 people. We also have seasonal residents that stayed here through the winter this year. When we’re receiving distributions of four to six hundred doses per week you quickly realize it could take a while to get everyone vaccinated,” said Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President for ARHS. “We’ll just keep vaccinating — exhausting our supply each week — and remaining hopeful that we’ll receive greater quantities in the near future. We just have to be patient.”