Residents 65 and older will be first eligible to receive vaccinations, others to follow
This article has been updated from the print edition
CLAYTON-- The Rabun County Health Department is currently taking appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine for certain groups.
“We are currently taking appointments for people in Phase 1-A,” said David Palmer, public information officer for District 2 Public Health, in a statement Wednesday.
This includes healthcare workers, first responders such as EMS, law enforcement, fire personnel, etc., long-term care facilities and persons aged 65 and older, Palmer said.
Appointments can be made through the web tool on the District 2 Public Health website, http://phdistrict2.org/
Users can click on the “Appointment Request” tab and follow the instructions to schedule an appointment.
The online registration link is open now, Palmer said. He said that a call center will be available on Monday, Jan. 11 for those who do not have access to online registration.
“There has been an enormous demand for the vaccine. Appointment slots have filled up fast on the online calendar,” Palmer said. “People need to remain patient as we ramp up to get more people vaccinated and work through the phases.”
According to a statement from District 2 Public Health officials, “to provide the vaccine in a safe environment, we ask everyone to follow these steps”:
1. Vaccines are for residents who live or work in the counties that comprise District 2
2. Vaccines will be given by appointment ONLY - Walk-ins will not be accepted
3. We will limit the number of people in enclosed spaces by observing recommended social distances to prevent the spread of illness
4. Come to your appointment as close to the allotted time as possible to reduce the number of people in the waiting area (you may be asked to wait outside or in your car if you are too early)
5. If you have insurance, please bring your card. Insurance will help pay to offset the cost for administering the vaccine.
6. There will be no cost to anyone to get vaccinated.
7. You should plan to remain for post-vaccination observation for up to 30-minutes
8. Prior to vaccination, review of product-specific safety information and consent will be required
9. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccine require two-doses - appointments are required for both doses
10. Please understand you will receive the vaccine that is available (Pfizer or Moderna)
Vaccine plan roll-out
The vaccine plan is being rolled out in three phases, 1-A. 1-B and 1-C.
District 2 is currently in Phase 1 with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability, according to the statement.
“Phase 1-A will include paid and unpaid persons serving in a healthcare setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials,” according to the statement. “Hospital staff, public health clinical staff, EMS, and other first responders, long term care facility (LTCF) staff, and urgent care facility staff are examples of people who will be included in this phase.”
This phase also includes staff in clinical settings like physicians, nurses, pharmacists, EMS, laboratory staff, environmental services, long-term care facility staff along with long-term care facility residents.
“For phase 1-A, we were able to contact healthcare workers by practice to bring them in for their shots. We also were able to arrange appointments for EMS personnel,” Palmer said.
He said that there is currently no timeframe regarding when the next phases will be implemented.
“No, we do not have a set time to change from one phase to the next. It is dependent on how many people want the vaccine, how quickly we can work through those in each phase and the availability of the vaccine,” Palmer said.
Rachel Cowart, Chief Nursing Officer for Mountain Lakes Medical Center (MLMC), said that the hospital is currently only vaccinating employed staff.
“At this time we are vaccinating staff in the 1-A category. We are awaiting additional shipments of Covid-19 Vaccine from the Department of Public Health (DPH),” Cowart said. “We are doing our employed staff at MLMC at this time, and are working internally to schedule them. We have reached out to order more doses than the 200 we discussed last week, but have not yet received an allocation.”
Phase 1-B will include other essential workers and people at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, according to the District 2 Public Health statement.
Examples of people included in this phase are critical workforce employees such as pharmacy staff, educational facility and staff, correctional facility staff, court employees, food processors, grocery store workers, transportation staff, nuclear power plant employees and air traffic controllers, among others.
Phase 1-C will include people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness and those not vaccinated during Phase 1-A or Phase 1-B, according to the statement.
This includes other essential workers and adults below age 65 with significant comorbidities.
“This is a fluid situation and there are a lot of moving parts. We are trying to maintain some consistency among 13 different health departments,” Palmer said.
Beginning January 11, COVID-19 testing at health departments will only be available between 8-9 a.m. and only for symptomatic first responders, school employees and court system personnel by appointment, according to a statement from District 2 Public Health.
Health department staff are being reassigned to these immunization clinics.
“This change will help meet the demand for providing vaccines to more people as we work through the phases identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” according to the statement.
The testing site at Franklin County Health Department will close after Friday.
Beginning January 11, the testing site in Hall County will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to noon.