COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines have rolled out across the nation, including in Walker County.

“The Walker County Health Department,” says the county’s website, “has asked that we share the following information for those trying to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.”

Possibly the most important piece of information is that the online portal for scheduling a vaccine appointment recently crashed due to the volume of visitors. Those wishing to schedule an appointment must now call the health department at 706-638-5577.

“The top priority for vaccinations in Georgia,” says the site, “remains first responders, front line health care workers and the staff and residents at long term care facilities. The state is asking the public to be patient as administering the vaccine is and will continue to be a logistical heavy lift.”

Another group of people eligible for the vaccine in Georgia’s first phase (Phase 1A+) is those age 65 or over and their caregivers (where that applies).

In addition to high demand for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) says that administering it is more complicated and time-consuming than administering other vaccines. A facility, says DPH, needs to have the space and time to monitor people for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine in case of side effects. This slows the rate at which they can vaccinate people. Facilities must also make sure their own staff are vaccinated first.

The availability of the vaccine is also dependent on how quickly its manufacturers can produce it and get it shipped to where it needs to go. To further complicate things, a second dose of the vaccine is necessary 28 days after the first dose in order to make it effective.

Walker County’s website provides information about COVID-19 testing sites and times for seven counties: Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Floyd, Bartow, Paulding and Gordon. It also provides daily updates on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in 10 counties, including Hamilton County, Tenn., as well as in the entire state of Georgia.

On Jan. 12, the site posted that Walker County had seen 4,479 cases of COVID-19 and 57 related deaths since testing began, with a possible additional four deaths linked to the virus. Catoosa County had seen 3,877 cases and 42 deaths.

On the same date, the site reported that there were 654,356 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Georgia since the onset of testing, and 10,580 deaths. There had been 5,763,974 tests done during that time.

Full statement

Here is the full statement, issued Jan. 11, from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Northwest Health District, which includes Walker, Catoosa and eight other Northwest Georgia counties:

“The Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District has closed its online registration portal for adults 65 and older and their caregivers to register to schedule COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

“If you already registered online to be notified to schedule an appointment, please know we have that information and will contact you just as soon as possible.

“All COVID-19 immunizations are by appointment. To schedule an appointment, call your local county health department. For health department phone numbers, go to nwgapublichealth.org and click on the county name at the top of the page.

“If you have difficulty reaching your health department, please be patient and persistent. Keep calling.

“Please do not call the health department or show up at the health department asking about previous registrations. Be assured you will be contacted sooner or later if you have already registered.

“We had to close online registration because the number of registrations we were receiving was increasing at a far greater rate than we are capable of scheduling appointments to immunize people with our limited vaccine supply.

“Our online registration portal for healthcare providers, workers, and first responders, however, remains active. You can find that portal at nwgapublichealth.org. If you use the online registration for healthcare providers, workers, and first responders, please make sure you register correctly and completely.

“Vaccine supply at the moment in Northwest Georgia remains very limited. We are uncertain how long it might be before it increases enough to allow us to notify you. Please be patient. We will notify you immediately when there is adequate vaccine available for your immunization.”

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Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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