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Toe River Health District Has Received 6,000-Plus COVID-19 Vaccine; Has Inoculated 1,817 Citizens

By Tim Gardner

Diane Creek, Director of the Toe River Health District, which encompasses health departments in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, NC counties said the district has received 6675 doses combined of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine, as of January 17th. Creek provided the following breakdown of the vaccine that has been administered to citizens of those respective counties age 75 years and older as well as their healthcare workers:

Avery County:  759

Mitchell County:  482

Yancey County:  576

Creek noted that the Toe River Health District has only the Moderna vaccine (not the Pfizer vaccine) available. Two does—one month apart-of the Moderna vaccine is needed, healthcare professionals mandate.

Tested, safe and effective. More than 70,000 people volunteered in clinical trials for two vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) to see if they are safe and work to prevent COVID illness. Volunteers included Black/African American, Hispanic/LatinX, Asians and others. To date, the vaccines are 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 with no serious safety concerns noted in the clinical trials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes sure the vaccines are safe and can prevent people from getting COVID-19. Like all drugs, vaccine safety continues to be monitored after they are in use.

North Carolina is now making Coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccines available to anyone age 65 and older and all health care workers, regardless of whether they are exposed to coronavirus patients, the state announced January 14th. Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties will begin inoculating its citizens age 65 years and older beginning this week.

Cannon Hospital in Linville is providing COVID-19 vaccinations, but those wanting it must schedule an appointment through their primary care provider physician first according to a spokesperson there.

“We have to continue the work we’ve done, which is wear a mask, stay socially distant and wash your hands often to help combat COVID-19,” Creek said. “Please do stay home and only go out for essential business. Remember, the virus is absolutely on a rampage in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties just as it is across the state and country.

“Be sure to stay quarantined if you’re having COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to anyone with the disease. And everyone, particularly those in high-risk groups such be vaccinated. These are the best ways to avoid developing this potentially deadly disease.”

According to the National Center for Disease Control, there have been more than 400,00 deaths in America since Covid-19 became a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Under North Carolina’s previous phased system for distributing the vaccine, people age 75 and older were first eligible to get inoculated starting last week. The new criteria put people age 65 and older ahead of other front-line essential workers. 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 shifted to a more simplified system with five groups, doing away with different phases that were to be used to prioritize who gets the vaccine. State healthcare officials have said that only vaccinating people 75 and older leaves out a disproportionate number of people of color or with low incomes who have lower life expectancy on average.

State healthcare officials also noted that the vaccine remains in limited supply. North Carolina is currently receiving about 120,000 doses a week.

There are more than a million North Carolinians between 65 and 74 years old, according to estimates from the N.C. Office of State Budget and Management. The state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has estimated that there are about 435,000 people in North Carolina older than 75. It’s also estimated that there are an additional 292,000 direct health care workers who were not initially eligible to receive vaccine. Now, all health care personnel who work around patients are eligible to get the vaccine.

A federal program, run through CVS and Walgreens, also began inoculating residents and employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, including those in the Toe River Health District, Creek said.

The National Center for Disease Control urges vaccinations for anyone under 65 who has a documented health condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19. Under the North Carolina’s new vaccination system, people age 16 to 64 with “high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID-19” will soon be eligible to get the vaccine.