WEDCO Health District officials said they hope to begin giving COVID-19 vaccines to non-hospital healthcare workers and first responders within the next few days.
“We’re expecting to receive vaccines soon, but our first efforts will be to vaccinate non-hospital healthcare workers and first responders such as EMTs, police and firemen,” said Dr. Crystal Miller, WEDCO public health director. “How fast we roll this out and how many people we can vaccinate will depend upon the supply of the vaccine we receive.”
The number of vaccines provided to each community is based upon formulas and information at the state and federal levels, so WEDCO is uncertain how many doses it will receive or the exact schedule when the doses will arrive, she said.
“It will likely take several weeks to get the vaccines and then vaccinate those in the first priority group,” Miller said. “I know people are excited, and it may take some time but eventually everyone will have a chance to get a vaccine, but we must vaccinate those on the front line first.”
The schedule for vaccinations will be kept updated on WEDCO’s social media sites, as well as the News-Graphic, she said.
“Each time we can start vaccinating a new priority group we’ll update it on social media and alert the local newspaper,” Miller said. Residents interested in receiving the vaccine should watch those media rather than call the public health department because the changes will be rapid, fluid and all WEDCO’s personnel will be needed to provide and support the vaccination schedule, she said.
“Each time a new priority group becomes eligible for the vaccine, we will alert the local media and update our social media sites,” Miller said.
For now, the focus will be on non-hospital health care workers and first responders only, she said. Family members, however, are not eligible at the moment.
“Those who are eligible for the vaccine should pre-register and be prepared to show a badge or identification,” Miller said. Because the number of doses available is still unknown, only paid employees will receive the first rounds of vaccines, she said.
WEDCO will be using the Moderna vaccine which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this past weekend. The Moderna vaccine began shipping out Monday.
Vaccines for long-term care facilities are being handled by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies through a federal contract. Staff and residents at Ashton Grove, an assisted living facility, will receive vaccines Monday from Walgreens, said Melissa Hauke, communications director. Windsor Gardens will receive its vaccine from CVS, but the date was still unknown, said Carrie Johnson, executive director. Most long-term care facility vaccines are expected to be the Pfizer vaccine.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses, which adds to the need for organization and planning.
Georgetown Community Hospital is responsible for its own vaccination program and is expected to start providing vaccines to its healthcare workers who are directly involved in treating COVID-19 patients today (Tuesday.) The hospital will be using the Moderna vaccine, officials said.
Mike Scogin can be reached at email@example.com.