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Macon County Health Department lays out vaccine plan 

As cases of COVID19 continue to rise across the country, Macon County prepares to receive the vaccine and begin distribution. As of 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 18, there are 120 lab-confirmed positive COVID-19 patients in Mission Health system; 100 at Mission Hospital; 5 at Angel Medical Center; 7 at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital; 4 at Mission Hospital McDowell and 4 at Transylvania Regional Hospital. Mission Hospital gave out the first vaccine Friday morning. 

Macon County Public Health Director of Nursing Jennifer Garrett answered questions from members of the board of health this week regarding vaccine distribution and storage. 

According to Garrett, there isn’t a timeline for if and when Macon County will receive the COVID19 vaccine, however, Macon County has signed up to be a distribution site and expects to receive the vaccine soon. 

Macon County will follow the state guidelines for vaccine distribution which states that health care workers who are at high risk for exposure to COVID19 such as doctors, nurses, and others who interact and care for patients with COVID19 will be among the first group to receive the vaccine. For the Macon County health department, that means employees working directly on the frontlines. 

After the first group of individuals have received the vaccine, Macon County Health Director Kathy McGaha said the county will move into the second group which includes adults at highest risk of severe illness and those at highest risk for exposure such as adults with conditions like cancer, COPD, and heart conditions. 

While there are guidelines from the department of health and human services at who and when the vaccine will be distributed, McGaha said that she isn’t going to ask her staff to make decisions or turn people away who show up for appointments for the vaccine if they are not in the correct group. 

The third group of individuals expected to get the vaccine are adults at high risk for exposure and an increase of risk and severe illness such as frontline workers and those living in prisons, homeless shelters, and adults 65+. The fourth group to get the vaccine are students and critical industry workers such as college and university students and those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at a lower risk of exposure. The fifth and final group for the vaccine is the general public and anyone who wants to receive one. 

With news of vaccine shipments being stolen, Garrett said that security measures are part of the county’s vaccine response plan. 

“On days we have the vaccine, we will be working with the Sheriff’s Department for extra security,” said Garrett. “We will also be working with EMS to help with monitoring patients for the required 15 minutes after received the vaccine.” 

While supplies for the vaccine are currently limited, additional vaccines and shipments are expected, which experts have said will result in the general public having access to the vaccine by Spring 2021.

While the Macon County Public Health Department is preparing for their shipment of the COVID19 vaccine, McGaha said that nursing homes, healthcare providers, and the hospital will likely receive their own supplies, separate from that of the health department. However, as of this week’s board of health meeting, a list of additional distribution sites had not been given to the county.  

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