When can I get a vaccine? That is the question so many people want to know.
As of Tuesday morning the only place locally to receive a vaccine for those 75 and older was the Montgomery County Health Department, and they are so overwhelmed that people could not get through to them when they called.
Interim County Manager Ray Allen told commissioners on Monday morning, “We were not prepared for the high volume of requests that have been coming in from the age 75 and over group since we were not originally planning for them to be in the first groups to be vaccinated. This was a decision that I don’t think we were notified about until January 4 following last minute federal and state guidance, so this all happened at the start of our implementation.”
Allen went on to say they were working hard to resolve the problem. “We are working this week to temporarily detail employees from other departments to assist with answering the telephone and data entry for the vaccine recipients which is a time consuming part of the process. We have a backlog of voicemails that we will be tackling this week. By providing this help we will also be able to increase the volume of vaccines we are providing, and we may be moving the clinic to a larger space than the Health Department to accommodate more recipients.” Allen did go on to state the county is limited in the number of vaccines it was allocated, “so this process will still take some time to vaccinate everyone who is eligible.”
Montgomery County Health Director Mary Perez-Baldwin said, “Currently we have 377 doses in our inventory and we hope to receive 100 more doses tomorrow (Tuesday).” She also stated, “As we enter names of those who have received the vaccine the State will send us at least 100 doses a week to replace what has been given.” Perez-Baldwin continued, “We have given a total of 117 doses since last Thursday when we started. Keep in mind 15-minute waiting period after each vaccination and we are following the social distancing
protocol so we can only have 11 being observed in the lobby after they have received the vaccine. This week we are scheduling up to 20-30 a day through Thursday as we have clinics scheduled for other services. Friday, no regular clinic scheduled, we have 80 on the schedule at this time, hope to schedule 100 with three vaccinators.”
Scheduling is dependent on the number of doses in a vial, which is 10 according to Perez-Baldwin. “Once the vaccine is taken out of the refrigerator it is good for 12 hours; once the first dose is removed from the vial it must be used within six hours or discarded. (We do not want any vaccine to be wasted, so we are careful in scheduling appointments.) If someone calls in and says they cannot come for their appointment, we call someone on the next day’s schedule to see if they can come in. The vaccines are currently being provided inside the health department. Information is obtained in the lobby and entered into the data base (CVMS) for the State and the health department’s Electronic Health Record system per guidance from the State and CDC.”
Perez-Baldwin went on to note that they must continue with their regular work as well. “We are still holding our routine clinics for patients who had appointments already scheduled for the services we provide prior to the vaccination event. We are not able to completely close our clinics since we see maternity patients, and STD treatment is mandatory by the State as well as investigation of any other communicable disease,” stated Perez-Baldwin.
In addition to the local health department, FirstHealth and Atrium are both working to secure vaccines they can administer to their patients. FirstHealth representative Emily Sloan stated, “FirstHealth will soon begin working with primary care providers in Montgomery County to schedule COVID vaccinations for their patients 75 years old and older. We are working now to secure a location to offer the community vaccinations and hope to begin vaccinations as early as this week.” Montgomery Herald will place the information on its website when it becomes available.
Information Technology Director Brian Helms said there is no totally automated system (nowhere in the state) and that is where much of the problem lies. All of the information has to be manually uploaded and that is extremely time consuming. Helms did state they were working on a form to place on the county website that will hopefully speed up the process in addition to adding five additional people taking calls. On Monday alone there were over 800 calls placed to the health department. Once information is gathered from an individual, that information must be uploaded to the state site before scheduling can occur. Helms said it is a cumbersome process at this time and they, as well as others across the state, are looking for ways to streamline the process.
Currently the county continues to show one of the highest positivity rates of all 100 counties. In the last 14 days there have been 424 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total to 2,302 cases, with 50 deaths from the virus being recorded. Additionally, the county has been setting new record highs almost daily, reaching a peak last Friday of 59 new cases in one day. That number decreased to 27 on Monday. The overwhelming majority of those cases are in the 25-49-year-old age group, followed by the 50-64-year-olds.
The state is showing 295 vaccines have been given in Montgomery County.
A free testing site remains open at the Ag Center on Glen Road in Troy.
Free testing will continue in the county throughout the month of January and possibly into February if the numbers remain high enough, according to Perez-Baldwin. The testing is held at the Ag Center on Glenn Road in Troy every day except Friday and Sunday. Monday hours are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Additionally, for those who have been told to quarantine and those who need financial assistance, True Worship Ministries on N.C. Highway 24/27 is taking applications as part of a grant program to provide financial assistance. Applications may be submitted Monday-Wednesday and on Fridays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., 2125 NC Hwy 24/27, Biscoe.