Receiving vaccine

Home Health Nursing Supervisor Susan Finney recently administered the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Ted Sumner of Conway.

Since the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccines, Halifax and Northampton counties have begun vaccinating the public in groups.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services website, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are prioritized based on individuals’ phase and subgroups due to limited supply.

• Phase 1a — Health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents will receive the vaccine.

• Phase 1b — Group 1: Adults 75 years or older will receive the vaccine regardless of health status or living situation; Next, Group 2: Health care workers with in-person patient contact and essential frontline workers 50 years and older; Group 3: Health care workers with in-person contact and frontline essential workers of any age will follow.

• Phase 2 — Adults at high risk for exposure and at an increased risk of severe illness. Vaccinations will be administered by groups in the following order:

Group 1 — Anyone 65-74 years old, regardless of health status or living situation

Group 2 — Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID, such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, regardless of living situation

Group 3 — Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function

Group 4 — Essential workers not yet vaccinated

• Phase 3: College and university students and K-12 students age 16 and over will be next in line. Younger children will be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

• Phase 4: The vaccine will be available for anyone who wants the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Representatives of the Halifax and Northampton county health departments said they have begun administering the Moderna vaccine.

Human Services Planner Megan Vick with the department said Friday, vaccine administering began Dec. 28 and have vaccinated most individuals in Phase 1a while beginning Phase 1b Group 1. Those in the two phases and group are the only individuals being vaccinated at this time.

“We have been very pleased with the turnout and interest in the vaccine,” she said. “We are offering vaccines by appointment only so we just ask that the citizens bear with us as we are working around the clock to make sure everyone who is interested as well as eligible for the vaccine receives one.”

Vick reported the Northampton County Health Department has a waiting list. When doses are allocated to the agency, staff contacts those individuals on the waiting list to schedule an appointment.

“This system has worked well so far, and we have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from those citizens we have already vaccinated,” Vick said. “As other phases open up, we will immediately make citizens aware, so there will be no delay in offering the vaccine to those eligible and interested.”

Halifax Health Director Bruce Robistow said his staff has already begun administering the vaccine on Dec. 30 and 31. In those two days, nearly 140 vaccines were administered in Phase 1a and Phase 1b Group 1, with plans to transition to Group 2 on Tuesday.

“Depending on turnout and the amount of volume of vaccine that we receive, we will then determine when we will change to Phase 1b Group 2,” he said. “It’s incredible. We run out every day. This week we did three days, and we’ve done over 900 total in the last week and a half.”

Robistow said there is more interest now to receive the vaccine than there was before. When asked why, he said it is the fear of the unknown.

“After some people got the vaccine and didn’t have bad reactions, and they told everybody, people are happy that they’re vaccinated,” he said. “So, they’re talking about it. I think word of mouth has played a great role in prompting more people in wanting to be vaccinated.”

When asked if all of his staff received the vaccine, Robistow said not all are vaccinated. Many are optimistic and positive about it, but some are not, he said.

“I can say everyone giving the vaccine is vaccinated, but we do have staff in the health department that have chosen to wait, and we find that in all health care professions,” Robistow said.

In recent months, another variant of the virus has emerged. The newly mutated virus of the SARS-CoV-2, named SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 or B.1.1.7 lineage, was first detected in London and southeast England in September, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. In October, another variant, B.1.351 lineage, independent of the one in the United Kingdom has emerged in South Africa, and another recently in Nigeria. All variants appear to spread easily, with the U.K. variant already detected in the U.S.

According to a map of the U.S. as of Friday on the CDC website, California has detected the variant in 32 cases, Colorado 3, Texas 1, New York 1, Connecticut 2, Pennsylvania 1, Florida 22 and Georgia 1.

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When asked if the health department has received any guidance on the new variants, Robistow said the guidance is vague. And while there is optimism the vaccines will work well on the new strains, that has not been completely verified.

People really need to do the 3Ws, he said.

“That’s the only thing that we have that we know works, and it’s going to take months to vaccinate everyone that wants to be vaccinated and bring us to herd immunity,” Robistow said. “What we can do immediately right now is wear a mask.”