COVID vaccine arrives in Anson

Timeline of full rollout still unclear

Liz O’Connell Staff Writer

			
				                                Evadne Smith, employee of Smith’s Funeral Home, receives the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 4 at the Anson County Health Department.
                                 Liz O’Connell | Anson Record

Evadne Smith, employee of Smith’s Funeral Home, receives the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 4 at the Anson County Health Department.

Liz O’Connell | Anson Record

“This is going to be a marathon, it is not a sprint.” — Fred Thompson, director of the Anson County Health Department

WADESBORO — COVID-19 vaccines have arrived at the Anson County Health Department and employees are prepping to roll it out to the public, following the state’s vaccination plan.

The Anson County Health Department has received 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine so far, the second of two FDA authorized coronavirus vaccines. These doses mean only 100 people will receive the vaccine, because it must be administered in two doses. Once you receive your first dose, you will wait 28 days until you receive the second dose.

Health Director Fred Thompson explained the department does not have the cold storage technology to house the Pfizer vaccine. Plus, the minimum shipment for the Pfizer vaccine is 975 doses, an excessive amount for Anson during the first phase.

“We vaccinated the Health Department staff last week,” Thompson said. “Those that would take it.”

Thompson said about 10 employees received the vaccine, which is only half of the department, due to some early hesitation. Administrative Officer Evonne Burr said for a slight moment she too was hesitant, but she ended up being the first employee to receive the vaccine.

As of Dec. 29, only 17 people in Anson County have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the North Carolina Department Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) website. The next update on the amount of people who received vaccinations will be on Jan. 5.

Of the 10 health department employees who were vaccinated last week, no one has reported any adverse reactions.

“Fortunately, no one has had any reaction at all, nothing, zero,” Thompson said. “It went very very well.”

North Carolina is rolling out these vaccines in four phases. As of now, the state is in Phase 1a where health care workers fighting COVID-19, long-term care staff and residents can receive the vaccine, according to the NCDHHS website.

“The state wants to be able to track every dose of the vaccine that is administered,” Thompson said. “In order to get the vaccine, you have to be registered in and approved by the COVID vaccine management system.”

Right now, the Health Department is working on getting out vaccines to everyone in Phase 1a. Burr is asking those who qualify to receive the first dose of the vaccine to send in a roster of people who are interested in getting the vaccine. From there, she will help those get registered to the online portal.

Thompson said the pool of those in Phase 1a in Anson County is tiny compared to the hundreds of healthcare workers in Union or Mecklenburg Counties. He is hoping because there is less people to vaccinate in this phase, the department can move to vaccinating adults 75 years or older and front-line essential workers within the next week.

Phase 1b will include three groups. It begins with anyone who is 75 years old or older, regardless of health status or living situation. Then it moves to health care workers and front-line essential workers who are 50 years old or older. These front-line essential workers include first responders, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers and those who work in education.

Once those frontline essential workers who are above 50 years old receive the vaccine, essential workers in those same industries of any age will be next.

As of now, there is no set time on when the other phases will begin. Phase 2 includes anyone between the ages of 65 and 74, adults at high risk for exposure, those who are incarcerated or living in other close group settings who is not already vaccinated and other essential workers who were not already vaccinated.

Phase 3 will be students who are 16 years or older. Young children will not be given the vaccine until it is approved for them.

“This is going to be a marathon, it is not a sprint,” Thompson said. “We will be vaccinating people for at least the next six months and probably the whole year.”

Anson Atrium started vaccinating their workers with the Pfizer vaccine. Thompson said CVS and Walgreens are also receiving shipments of vaccines to be given at nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Thompson predicts by the summer there could be another authorized vaccine and that by the fall it will be like getting a flu shot at your local pharmacy or doctor’s office.

He is hoping to receive approval from the state to start with the next phase soon. Thompson wants people to start getting their vaccination shot in order to slow the spread of the virus, especially now as cases continuously rise.

“Locally we’ve had a big increase in the number of cases,” Thompson said. “We’re probably averaging about 20 new cases a day now, sometimes more.”

The department reported on Jan. 4, 1,524 total cases and 195 active cases. The department also announced another death related to COVID-19, bringing the total to 29 deaths in the county.

The challenge with the vaccine is it will be another layer added on to the departments already full schedule. Even with administering the vaccines, the department is still responsible for it’s core duties and COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, according to Thompson.

“You have to have people willing to take the vaccine,” Thompson said as the initial interest was smaller than he expected. “If we can’t get a significant percentage of the population vaccinated over the next six months, we’ll all be wearing masks next Christmas.”

The department will continuously update the county with updates on Facebook amount the different phases, information about the vaccines, trying to encourage people to take the vaccine.

Reach Liz O’Connell at 704-994-5471 or at eoconnell@ansonrecord.com. Follow on Twitter at @TheAnsonRecord.