Amid national news of vaccine doses going to waste or not getting into the arms of those who want it, Haywood County has developed a system whereby every dose sent is quickly used.
That’s contrary to the national statistics where the distribution rate is 27% and the North Carolina distribution rate is 6.2%.
The nationwide distribution system is one where states receive doses and then ship them to the counties based on demographics.
In Haywood, 1,200 vaccine doses have been shipped to Haywood Regional Medical Center for use in the community — an amount that’s in addition to the doses given to hospital employees.
Vaccines for long-term care facilities are handled separately through contracts with pharmacies, and that information is not available.
“We currently have adequate doses on hand to administer second doses for our employees,” said hospital spokesperson Lindsey Solomon, saying the additional doses will be used according to priorities set by the Centers for Disease Control and that state. Distribution plans for phase 1b are being finalized.
As of this week, Haywood’s public health division will have administered all 1,000 doses on hand and will be ready to distribute more as soon as a new shipment arrives.
The tricky part is that vaccine arrival is an unknown factor, said Garron Bradish, the interim public health director in Haywood.
“Sometimes we get an email that vaccine is on the way after it has already arrived,” he said.
There is a vaccine priority list, and Haywood has already moved through the Phase 1a group — medical staff, long-term care residents and staff, funeral, pharmacy, dental and home health staff.
Additionally, the fire/first responder/emergency services group has been vaccinated, and now the county is working on the 75 and older population.
A successful preregistration system has been credited with Haywood’s ability to keep up with vaccine demand — one that is stymied by dosage availability.
“We’ve scheduled out all the vaccine we have,” Bradish said, noting those next in line have been or will soon be notified of their time slot.
The county has a number of volunteers and retired health professionals helping with the vaccination process.
While the push is still on to register those in the 75 and up age group, individuals in any category can register now. They will be placed in the proper group and contacted when their appointment time nears.
Individuals only need to register once, Bradish said, and should not call after they have registered to check on their appointment time. Those registering online will be able to look for a notification that they have successfully registered, and those registering by phone can be assured they have been added to the list.
Those on the list will be notified through the county’s Everbridge system when their appointment is scheduled.
The system is typically used as an early warning system to notify residents of everything from natural disasters, to traffic detours to public service interruptions.
However, it can also be used in situations such as notifying individuals on a database of things like when their vaccination date and time is scheduled.
Cases on the rise
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases in Haywood continues to rise.
In the four days ending Monday, Jan. 11, the public health department received notice of 191 new cases in the county, bringing the total number of cases since April 2019 to 2,684.
The health department tracks those who have tested positive and confirmed 391 individuals are in isolation as they wait for the virus to lose its ability to infect others.
There are 44 individuals in the county who have tested positive, but refuse to cooperate with public health officials and who may be ignoring isolation guidance, a news release notes.
“If you have tested positive and you have friends or family that meet the close contact criteria, encourage them to self-quarantine and get tested 5-6 days after their exposure to you. Our end goal is to reduce community spread, so one day we can all be together again,” said Bradish.
The extent of community spread has made it impossible to contact or monitor close contacts to those who have tested positive for the virus. That means the county can no longer provide quarantine documentation for employers.
“Businesses need to be mindful that having quarantined employees to return to work too quickly could cause a cluster of cases in the workplace,” Bradish said. “We ask that employers rely on the honor system and encourage employees who have been exposed to quarantine for the recommended time frame of 14 days from the date of exposure to help us reduce the spread during this surge of cases.”
County Medical Director Mark Jaben said while many are anxiously waiting for the vaccine, getting the shot and booster isn’t the end of the pandemic’s impact.
“Although the vaccine protects the person vaccinated with a much lower risk of getting infected or getting a severe infection, it will not prevent every infection,” Jaben said. “And it is not yet clear whether the vaccine prevents a person from still getting the virus and giving it to others despite their own personal protection. Remember the goal is not only to get individuals vaccinated for their own protection, but to get enough people vaccinated for the entire community to be protected.”