The Alexander County Health Department has received notice from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) that they can begin Phase 1b – Group 1 of the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The health department has received more than 2,000 doses of the vaccine. Phase 1a was administering the vaccine to local health care personnel who are at high risk of contracting the virus.
Phase 1b – Group 1 will allow those ages 75 and older to receive the vaccine, regardless of health condition. Vaccination clinics are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (January 6-8) at the health department and on Thursday, January 7 at the Alexander Senior Center. Appointments are required to receive the free vaccination.
A new COVID-19 vaccine hotline (828-352-7724) has been established to allow the public to make appointments more easily. If there is no answer, citizens should leave a message with their name and phone number, and a staff member will return their call as soon as possible to arrange an appointment date and time.
Leeanne Whisnant, Alexander County Consolidated Human Services Director, believes this is a good plan that will help citizens get the vaccine more quickly.
“Our staff at the health department has been extremely busy with COVID-19 cases and contact tracing, and now we have the additional workload of administering vaccines according to state guidelines,” Whisnant said. “We ask for everyone’s patience and understanding as we proceed with the vaccine distribution.”
Alexander County Emergency Services staff is now assisting the health department with vaccine administration and COVID-related workload.
“We appreciate the assistance of Emergency Services so we can better serve our citizens during this stage of the pandemic,” she said. “With their help, we will be able to provide vaccines to more people in a timely manner.”
Whisnant noted that if a person has had COVID-19 within the past 30 days, he/she must wait to receive the vaccine. Also, if a person has health problems, he/she may want to contact their primary care physician to consult with them before receiving the vaccine.
In Phase 1b – Groups 2 and 3, vaccines will be available to law enforcement, firefighters, and first responders.
In the coming weeks, Peoples Drug and Office Practice of Pharmacy will also be providing vaccinations; however, no timeline has been provided by the state as to when they will receive the vaccine.
Here are the current and upcoming phases of vaccine distribution as outlined by the state:
Phase 1b: Adults 75 years or older and frontline essential workers
There is not enough vaccine for everyone in this phase to be vaccinated at the same time; therefore, vaccinations will be available to groups in the following order.
- Group 1: Anyone age 75 or older, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older
The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and law enforcement), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
- Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age
Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness
Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:
- Group 1: Anyone age 65-74, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Anyone age 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation
- Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition, or job function
- Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated.
The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.
Phase 3: Students
- College and university students
- K-12 students age 16 and over
Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.
Phase 4: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination
“We are hopeful and optimistic that this vaccine will protect our citizens from the virus, and then we can start the process of returning to a more normal way of life,” Whisnant related. “Again, we appreciate everyone’s support and patience as we work together for the health and safety of our loved ones.”
Citizens are urged to keep practicing the 3 Ws – wear a mask, wait six feet apart, wash your hands – until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated.
To learn more about the vaccination plan in North Carolina, visit the NCDHHS website at https://yourspotyourshot.nc.gov. There you will find a variety of videos, PDF documents, frequently asked questions, and more.