Sarah Hodges Stalls

The Enterprise

Williamston - Martin-Tyrrell-Washington District Health (MTW) is administering the Moderna vaccine in order to slow the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The three counties in the Martin Tyrrell Washington District receive 100-300 vaccines per week, according to Wes Gray, Health Director.

“Therefore, we are conducting outreach to the Phase 1a and 1b populations in order to get them registered into the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System and scheduled for an appointment. While the focus is on Phase 1a and Phase 1b Group 1, we will be able to pull registered patients from other groups in Phase 1b in order to maximize the schedule and administer as many doses as we can per week,” Gray said.

Gray continued, “COVID-19 vaccinations are a safe and effective part of our toolkit to fight this pandemic. We are currently reaching out to frontline healthcare workers, the 75 and over population, and frontline essential workers. At this time, due to our limited vaccine allocations and the need to register each patient in the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System, we will be conducting all appointments in our clinic buildings.”

Deputy Health Director Vickey Manning added if anyone wishing to get the vaccine who currently takes a blood thinner or has any type of blood disorder should provide written approval from their physician clearing them to do so.

Manning also asked the public to please be patient with the health district team who are going through long lists to get people scheduled ¬– according to the appropriate phase. As of right now, vaccine opportunities remain by appointment only.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose vaccine that is administered 28 days apart, and it has been approved for patients 18 and older. The clinical trial was conducted on over 30,000 volunteers and also showed a 95% efficacy rate at preventing transmission.

These vaccines showed no safety concerns during clinical trials. Temporary side effects like sore arms and tiredness have been reported by some vaccine recipients. These side effects were more common after the second dose of the vaccine.

“Your healthcare provider can give more advice on taking the vaccine if you have a bleeding disorder, are taking blood thinners, or if you have a history of allergic reactions to vaccines or medication,” Gray added.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only other vaccine that has been approved by the Food and Drug administration (FDA), but storage requirements mean that only hospital systems and health departments with specialized freezers will be able to receive and administer the doses.

As more vaccines are approved by the FDA, MTW officials said they will be able to offer more options.

“Immunizations and vaccines are one of the most important medical advancements in public health history, and they are an important part of our overall strategy to prevent outbreaks and communicable diseases,” according to Gray.

Due to extremely limited supplies of the vaccine, a targeted approach focusing on healthcare workers, vulnerable populations, and those at highest risk will be implemented during the next few months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have outlined the following phases for vaccine distribution:

Phase 1a (Healthcare workers and long-term care staff and residents)

• Healthcare workers caring for and working directly with patients, and workers administering the vaccine.

• Long-term care staff and residents.

Phase 1b (Adults 75 years or older and frontline essential workers)

• There is not enough vaccine for everyone in this phase to be vaccinated at the same time. Vaccinations will be available to groups in the following order:

• Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation. This group began Jan. 6. While continuing group 1a.

• Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older. This group is currently estimate to open on or about Jan. 20, while continuing other groups already underway.

• Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age. Feb. 8 is the current target date to open this group for MTW Health District.

Frontline essential workers include firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, postal service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff), and childcare workers.

Phase 2 (Adults at high risk for exposure)

• Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:

• Group 1: Anyone 64-74 years old, regardless of health status or living condition

• Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with at-risk medical conditions that increase the risk of severe disease from COVID-19 including cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.

• Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in close group settings who have not previously been vaccinated.

• Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated

Essential workers in this group include workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (construction), finance, information technology, communications, and media.

Phase 3 (Students)

• College and university students.

• K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

• Those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at a lower risk of exposure.

Phase 4

• Any member of the general public who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.

“As more vaccine becomes available and we open registration to other Phases, we will be conducting drive thru and off-site mass vaccination events later this winter and into the spring,” said Gray.

Until more vaccine is available, he encourages residents to continue to limit indoor gatherings and practice the 3 W’s; Wear a Mask, Wait six ft. apart, and Wash your hands.”

Patients in the 1a and 1b population can visit the MTW District Health Department website to register online: https://mtwdistricthealth.org/phase-1b-group-1-registration/

or call 252-793-3023.

Sarah Hodges Stalls can be reached via email at shstalls@ncweeklies.com