The administration of the COVID vaccine has begun in the U.S. and the CDC has provided recommendations to federal, state and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. According to the Webster County Health Unit, it’s working collaboratively with providers across the country to start administering the vaccine as soon as possible.
“There’s a couple different folks in the county who are trying to get their hands on it,” said Scott Allen, Emergency Planner for the health unit. “I wish we had more definitive news about when we could begin vaccinations, but it’s just a matter of when it gets here… we are really, really, hopeful that we’ll have some positive news this week.”
According to a press release from the health unit, once the vaccine is received it will be offered to people in Tier 1A, following state and CDC guidelines. Once the state opens up Tier 1B, the vaccine will then be offered to that group.
The vaccination works by “teaching your immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19, which is what protects you from contracting the virus.
Tier 1A includes healthcare personnel and staff who have potential for direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19 and are unable to work from home. This includes the critical population of patient-facing inpatient and outpatient healthcare personnel with underlying health conditions, including hopital-based physicians, nurses, aides, therapists, clinical area janitorial staff, reception clerks, etc.
“Right now Missouri is in 1A, so the health unit has reached out Tier 1A employers – care homes, clinics, school nurses, pharmacies, things like that – just to get an estimate of how many vaccines will be needed at each of those organizations,” Allen said.
When the state initiates Tier 1B, the vaccine will be available to those with high-risk, including those 65 or more years of age and workers who are vital to keeping the essential functions of society running. These essential employees include public health workers, first responders, law enforcement, non-hospital EMS, fire and correction personnel, public office employees, food and power plant workers, those 65 years or older, childcare workers and teachers/schools staff.
“Once everyone in Tier 1A and 1B receives the vaccine, it will be offered more widely, based on availability,” said the health unit. “We’ll do everything in our power to keep you all updated on where things are as they change and other tier’s open up.”
Experts are unsure how long individuals are protected from getting sick again following a successful COVID-19 recovery. The natural immunity one gains from having recovered from the virus is not permanent and varies in each case.
While Webster County awaits shipments of the vaccine, the health unit reminds citizens to stay vigilant with hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing.
“For folks who are wearing their masks, socially distancing and being safe, we really appreciate it,” said Allen. “The one thing that we know is we have to do something to buy us some time. We are going to be dealing with COVID this year, but just keep toughing it out so we can nip this in the bud.”
A widespread misconception within the community is the notion that the health unit is taking patient names and phone numbers to be placed on a “wait list” for the vaccine. According to Allen, there is no waiting list at this time, nor does he expect there to be. For information regarding the status of the vaccine, follow the Webster County Health Unit on social media and stay up to date with media partners like the Marshfield Mail.
“One of the things about working in a small county is that you really have a lot of support, but sometimes the resources are harder to come by when it comes to health care. We understand the importance of continuing to test, but we really need to vamp up our vaccination program,” Allen explained. “So the majority of our efforts moving forward will go there.”
The health unit’s most recent drive-through testing clinic took place on Monday, Jan. 11, drawing another large line of vehicles to the fairgrounds.
“Our positivity rate has gone down just a little bit, but the number of cases have gone up because of getting caught up through the holidays,” he said.
“Right now we’re seeing about a 25% positivity rate, which is higher than the state average… about a quarter of every 100 people coming to these drive-through test clinics have positive results.”
The next free COVID-19 testing will be held at the Webster County Fairgrounds between 9 and 11 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25. Those who are experiencing symptoms or with a recent exposure can get more testing information by calling the health unit at (417) 859-2532.