Barrier receives vaccine

Evergreen Haverkamp administers the Moderna vaccine to Mitzi Barrier at the Avery County community building on Tuesday, Jan. 12.

NEWLAND — The Avery County Health Department is now providing vaccines to anyone 75 years of age or older at the Avery County Agricultural Extension Community Building at 661 Vale Road above Ingles in Newland.

The first round of doses began on Tuesday, Jan. 12, and will last until Friday, Jan. 15. The next available times will be from Wednesday to Friday, Jan. 20 to 22. Vaccine shots will be available during the hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The department is asking recipients to bring their insurance cards and to wear appropriate clothing, so the vaccine can be easily administered in the upper arm. Those who have a bleeding disorder or are on blood thinners need to contact their physician and receive written documentation to receive the vaccine. Questions about the vaccine can be addressed by calling (828) 733-8273. Masks are required.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, approximately 234 individuals in Avery County have received the first dose of the vaccine, and three people have completed the vaccine series as of Jan. 12. The first people to receive the vaccine in the county were those in group 1A, which included health care workers as part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the Avery County Health Department who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.

The county’s efforts to begin vaccinating people 75 years of age and older comes after NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced on Dec. 31 that the state had changed its distribution plan to include those in the age group as part of phase 1B, whether or not they have a pre-existing condition.

To date, the ACHD has received 1,200 shipments of the Moderna vaccine, which was shown to be 94.1-percent effective in clinical trials, and continues to receive weekly shipments to cover the second dose of the vaccine. The second shot is applied 28 days after receiving the first one, and patients will be able to schedule a time to receive that second vaccination during their visit to the community building.

“People will come in and fill out their paperwork. When they’re done they will bring it to the nurse and then wait for 15 minutes. EMS will be here as well, and if anyone has an allergic reaction they will take care of them,” Deborah Gragg, ACHD nursing supervisor, said.

After those 75 years of age and older receive their vaccination, health care workers and frontline essential workers older than the age of 50 are listed as next in line to receive the vaccine, according to NCDHHS. Meanwhile, CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens have begun vaccinating residents and staff at assisted living facilities, with local facilities expected to begin receiving their vaccine doses this week.

Diane Creek, director of the Toe River Health District, said that the three health departments do not expect to experience any shortages of the vaccine as the rollout continues.

“So far we have not experienced any shortage of vaccine. We continue to get regular shipments of vaccine so we don’t think there is any reason to think anyone who wants a shot won’t be able to get one. We are getting the Moderna vaccine, which requires two shots, 28 days apart. Once we vaccinate the majority of group 1b1 (those who are 75 years old or older, regardless of health condition) then we will move on to group 1b2,” Creek said.

Plans for the county to go out into the community and hold vaccination clinics at places such as Riverside Elementary School, Banner Elk, Beech Mountain and other locations are in the works as the county waits to receive its two mobile crisis units. The county will likely begin this phase of the community rollout once it is time to vaccinate those who are 65 years old and younger. In the meantime, community paramedics will be going out to the homes of those who are 75 years of age and older who are unable to leave their homes to administer the vaccines.

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