To our readers:

The News-Graphic is working closely with WEDCO Health District to provide as timely information as possible on the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. WEDCO expects to begin the second phase of vaccinations soon for people over the age of 70 and educators. Demand is currently exceeding supply, however.

If you are 70 or older or an education, please note:

• Watch WEDCO Health District’s Facebook page, its website at www.wedcohealth.org, the News-Graphic or its website for the latest details on vaccinations.

• WEDCO learns how many vaccines it will have for the following week sometime on Fridays. Registration is made online at wedcohealth.org but is limited to the number of vaccines available for that week. Registration is not opened until the first of the week in which the vaccines are distributed.

• Seniors who do not have a computer or who are not computer savvy may call the WEDCO office for help. Otherwise, all registrations are made online at wedcohealth.org. Please do not call the WEDCO office about vaccines unless absolutely necessary.

• COVID Clinics will be held on Fridays at the Scott County Public Health Department on Washington Street. The supply for vaccines is usually exhausted within a day, so the vaccination clinic will only be held on Fridays until the supply increases.

The agonizingly slow availability of COVID-19 vaccines is frustrating older residents and health officials.

As of Friday, the WEDCO Health District has provided 800 doses of the vaccine since Dec. 23 in Scott County, mostly to first responders and non-hospital health care workers. That has enabled WEDCO to almost complete 1A of the distribution plan and begin looking towards opening 1B of the plan, which is to vaccinate people 70 years of age or older and educators.

“It makes me so sad that we don’t have more vaccines,” said Dr. Crystal Miller, WEDCO public health director. “We can’t open up vaccines until we actually have the vaccines. It’s not that we’re not giving information. We just don’t have the vaccines.

“We deplete our supplies as soon as we can.”

Older residents anxious to get vaccinated have contacted WEDCO, elected officials and the newspaper wanting information that is just not available.

WEDCO is contacted sometime on Friday and told how many doses will be provided for the next week, Miller said. That number is determined by state and federal officials and is based upon the total number of vaccines available in Kentucky and other local criteria. 

“Once I know how many vaccines are available, then we open up pre-registration on our website (wedcohealth.org),” Miller said. But the number of registrations is limited and based upon the number of doses available for that week. 

“We find out sometime Friday how many doses we will receive, but the vaccines don’t normally arrive until Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week,” she said.

In Scott County, WEDCO will be holding its COVID Clinic each Friday at the Scott County Public Health building on Washington Street. Because the number of vaccines is limited, the clinics are scheduled for just one day, Miller said. 

“We can provide all the vaccines we receive in just one day,” she said. “Until we have so much supply that it takes more than one day to distribute we’ll hold our COVID Clinics on Fridays only in Scott County.”

Notification when registration opens up each week will be posted on WEDCO’s Facebook page, its website, through public agencies and the News-Graphic. The registration will be limited based upon the number of vaccines available because all of WEDCO’s resources need to be focused on its health care missions and distributing the vaccine. 

Help will be available for older citizens who do not have a computer or who are not computer savvy by calling the WEDCO office, she said. Otherwise, all registrations will be held online.

The federal government contracted with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies to distribute vaccines to nursing homes and long-term health care facilities. Most such facilities in Scott County have received their first dose and some are nearing time for the second booster shot. It appears that will be completed at the end of January or very early February. Georgetown Community Hospital has provided vaccines to hospital employees who are working directly with COVID patients.

The federal government also announced this week that all doses will be released in order to vaccinate as many people as possible. Until now, some doses were held back for the second round, or booster shot.

The urgency for the vaccines is growing as the expected surge of cases from the holidays is starting to hit. Since the new year began, Scott County has experienced 486 new confirmed cases and the number of local hospitalizations has increased to 56 since the pandemic began. The number of hospitalizations on Dec. 31 was 53. The county’s death toll has risen to 26.

The vaccine used by the pharmacies for the long-term care facilities is the Pfizer vaccine. WEDCO and the hospital are using the Moderna vaccine. Both vaccines require two doses — after three weeks for the Pfizer vaccine and four weeks for the Moderna vaccine.

Health care officials are watching closely a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson that is expected to be approved by the FDA later this month.  If the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved, it can speed up the number of vaccinations because it requires only one dose and the vaccine can be stored in a normal refrigerator while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be kept frozen.

 

Mike Scogin can be reached at mscogin@news-graphic.com.

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