The Huntington County Health Department is preparing to administer the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
The department received its first shipment of 100 coronavirus vaccines Friday, according to Huntington County Public Health Nurse Emily Schamerhorn. She said the department is expecting to receive a couple hundred doses every week.
While Huntington County Commissioner President Tom Wall said he’s happy to have secured vaccines for people who want them, he expressed concerns over the speed at which the state is distributing vaccines to rural communities.
“We need to make sure we can get everything the big cities can get,” Wall said. “When I look at the news in the morning, I see big cities have many vials of these doses sitting in freezers, and we only get 100. They can’t get theirs dispersed out because they are not organized, but we are organized. We are ready to go. I’m having a problem (with that).”
Wall said he also has issues with how many vaccines are being distributed to the county since it has at least seven volunteer fire departments, hundreds of healthcare workers and hundreds of law enforcement officials on top of the elderly and residents in long term care facilities.
“We are behind. They say there’s another strain coming in. They say this (vaccine) does take care of it, but we need to have those immediately,” he said. “They need to get it to us so we can get it to our first responders and people who have been taking care of us since basically the first of April.
“If we are supposed to be getting doses of this (vaccine), get it to us. We need more than 100,” he continued. “We have more than 100 essential people in our community, and then we have the rest of the community we have to be worried about too.”
This week, ISDH announced that anyone over the age of 80 is now eligible to receive the vaccine. Healthcare personnel, first responders and long-term care facility residents were part of the first phase of eligible populations. Full details can be found at www.coronavirus.in.gov/ vaccine/, and those who are eligible can sign up for a vaccination at ourshot.in.gov.
Wall and Schamehorn both said they were happy to see the state extend eligibility to people above the age of 80.
“I think that’s great. The at-risk people are basically the 60 and above age group, and the ones who are getting it the most and passing away are 70 and above if you look at the charts from the state board of health,” Wall said. “If those people take advantage of this, I think that will be a plus.”
Since the online sign-up went live, more than 35,000 Hoosiers above the age of 80 have signed up, Schamehorn reported, adding that the site is having issues due to high volume traffic.
“They want to make sure it’s going to the people who are most vulnerable and the people that have the most exposure… That’s why they are rolling it out kind of slowly,” she said. “They can’t make that much vaccine (at once), and they don’t want to give it to the wrong people, basically.”
Schamehorn said people can also call 211 to sign up for the vaccine, but she said that number is also receiving high volume requests.
The state is asking the public to be patient, and Schamehorn reiterated those sentiments.
“People just need to be patient or try again later since they are experiencing a lot of delay since there are so many people who want it, which is fantastic,” she said. “We are so happy about (the high demand).”
Schamehorn also stressed the importance of cough etiquette, like using a tissue or covering your mouth. She also emphasized the importance of making sure people who receive the vaccine get a second dose of the vaccine since initial doses don’t provide as much protection from the virus.
‘This vaccine has been proven to be at least 94 percent effective against coronavirus,” Schamehorn said. “If you don’t come back to get your second dose, you’re not going to get that full protection.”
To contact the Huntington County Health Department, call (260) 358-4831.