COVID-19 Vaccine

Catoosa County Board of Commissioners Chairman Steven Henry says the demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is high in the county.

“The demand for the COVID-19 vaccine is high in Catoosa County,” says Catoosa County Commission Chairman Steven Henry. “It’s been a challenge.”

The demand has been so high that the online portal for signing up crashed. Catoosa residents can call the health department at 706-406-2000 to arrange an appointment to receive the free vaccine.

Henry says the county is sending employees to the Catoosa County Health Department to help man the phones. “The county does not run the health department,” Henry says. “It’s run by the state, but we can help them.”

Georgia, says the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), “is in phase 1A+ of vaccine administration. That phase includes: healthcare workers (physicians, nurses, EMS personnel, laboratory technicians, environmental services, etc.); residents and staff of long-term care facilities; adults aged 65+ and their caregivers, as applicable; and law enforcement, firefighters, 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders.”

Henry says 320 people were vaccinated at the health department on Wednesday, Jan. 13. On Thursday, Jan. 14, at 2:30 p.m., Henry is conducting a livestream interview with a medical professional to help people understand the vaccination process better. The video can be viewed on the county’s Facebook page in real time and afterward.

As of Jan. 13, Henry says between 2,500 and 3,000 vaccines had been administered in Catoosa County. That does not include vaccines the state has contracted with pharmacies to administer to populations like nursing home residents.

“We’re working on letting local pharmacies and walk-in clinics know that they can administer the vaccines, too,” says Henry. “We’re getting the paperwork to them so they can sign up to do it.”

DPH says that administering the COVID-19 vaccine 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.

Henry says a single-dose vaccine is expected around springtime. “That will make everything much easier,” he says.

“We’re asking people to be patient,” says Henry. “We’re working as hard as we can to get vaccines to everyone. We’ve never been through a pandemic before so we’re learning as we go.”

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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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