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County vaccinating healthcare workers, frontline workers up next

In a presentation before the county commissioners on Monday, Stanly County Health Director David Jenkins said the county is vaccinating people in Phase 1a of the state’s vaccination plan.

These people include healthcare workers — ranging from community health workers, paramedics and behavioral health providers to pharmacists, dentists and public health nurses — at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those administering the vaccine along with long-term care staff and residents.

“Our goal is to get as much vaccine out to the community as possible to protect our public,” he said.

The health department has been contacting the people who qualify to get vaccinated as part of Phase 1a and Jenkins said that about 30 percent of the population has been vaccinated.

“It’s a challenge trying to make a determination on who’s going to want the vaccine,” he said.

Jenkins said the plan was to vaccinate between 50 to 60 health workers Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at the drive-through clinic at the Stanly County Commons. Vaccinations are available from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. those three days, Jenkins told the commissioners.

The goal is to soon add another drive-through lane, thus allowing the department to vaccinate up to 120 people a day.

“In order to do that we had to order more equipment and pool some more staff in to accommodate,” Jenkins said, adding other aspects of health services will the dialed back “to try getting as many people vaccinated as possible.”

To free up the department to strictly focus on vaccinations, Jenkins said OptumServe will soon open a drive-in testing site at the Stanly County Senior Center in Albemarle to go along with its site at Stanly Community College’s Crutchfield Campus in Locust. The Albemarle testing site will be open Monday through Saturday.

The health department is working to set up a vaccine appointment phone line, which is something many larger counties in the area have already created.

CVS and Walgreens, through a Pharmacy Partnership Program with DHHS, will administer the vaccine to residents and staff at nursing homes and adult congregate living facilities.

The health department is administering the Moderna vaccine, with each individual vial allowing the department to vaccine 10 people.

“Once we tap into one of those vials, we have to make sure we have 10 folks available for vaccine because we don’t want any of it to go to waste,” he said.

The department only has six hours to administer the doses once the vials are opened, he said.

Jenkins told the Stanly News & Press that the department has about 1,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine and receives shipments of new doses each week. The Moderna vaccine is given in two doses, separated by 28 days. As of Tuesday, 225 people have received the first dose of the vaccine, according to information from the state Health and Human Services Department, while one person has received the required two doses.

Side effects of the vaccine, per the CDC, include pain, swelling and redness in the arm that received the shot and chills, tiredness and headache throughout the body.

Jenkins told the commissioners that as early as next week, the county plans to transition to vaccinating people in Phase 1b, which includes adults 75 years and older and frontline essential workers. The CDC defines frontline workers as first responders, teachers, grocery store workers, food and agricultural workers, manufacturing workers, public transit workers, corrections officers and U.S. postal workers.

During the school board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Dr. Jarrod Dennis said he spoke with officials at the health department and that the plan, as part of Phase 1b, is to start vaccinating Stanly County Schools staff over 50 years of age who haven’t had the coronavirus in the past 30 days. School nurses will administer the vaccine and Dennis said vaccinations could start as early as next Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

SCS sent out a survey this week to all of its staff to gauge who would be interested in receiving the vaccine. Dennis said that if all eligible staff wanted to get the vaccine, it would total about 500 people.

The county has 978 active coronavirus cases, as of Tuesday, along with 35 people currently hospitalized. A total of 93 people with COVID-19 have died while seven people have become reinfected.

Jenkins told the commissioners that based on data and state projections, North Carolina will likely peak with coronavirus cases sometime in March or April.

“In the meantime, we’re trying to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate and just educate and let people know to keep your distance from others and wear masks,” Jenkins said.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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