Things are going in the right direction, according to Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann in his regular update to the Moore County Board of Commissioners Tuesday on the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Wittmann provided information on his department’s efforts to overcome vaccine hesitancy, announced a new appointment system and applauded the school system for plans returning to daily, in-person instruction.
Commissioners heard the health department’s efforts to address vaccine hesitancy and to raise awareness in the minority and underserved communities.
New releases, social media notices and educational information have been sent by the Moore County Health Department to their partners in the minority community in an effort to address disparities in vaccination rates. In a proactive measure, the health department has called to offer appointments to eligible people in minority populations.
Vaccines approved for use in the United States have been proven safe and effective, according to Wittmann. “There is no evidence that the vaccines used in the United States cause severe, life-threatening side effects or deaths,” he said.
The side effects are generally mild. Some may experience arm soreness and redness on the arm where the shot was given, while others have experienced a tired feeling, headache, muscle pain, chills and fever, according to health officials.
Those symptoms are “not unusual as your body is producing antibodies to fight the virus.”
“Most people experience mild reactions to the vaccine,” Wittmann went on to say.
A phone line is staffed every Tuesday beginning at 1 p.m. until all those wanting an appointment are matched with the number of available doses. No vaccines have been wasted, according to Wittmann. To make an appointment, people are asked to call 910-947-SHOT (7468) on Tuesdays after 1 p.m.
“We wanted to assure everybody that got an appointment was able to receive the vaccine, and no one would be showing up without vaccine being available for them,” Wittmann said.
North Carolina is allowing vaccinations for people in Group 1: Health care workers and long-term care residents and staff, Group 2: Anyone 65 years or older and Group 3: Frontline essential workers.
Last week, the health department administered 650 first doses and 400 of the required second dose. Another 600 people are expected to receive their first shot this week. Bad weather four weeks ago in other parts of the country disrupted the delivery of second doses to Moore County, resulting in delays.
An additional 300 doses of surplus vaccine will be used by the Moore County Health Department this week. The extra vaccine was given to the health department after an allotment to FirstHealth was not fully utilized. “Moore County will not send a vaccine back to the state,” said Wittmann. “We will use them between all of our partners.”
The Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine is expected to be shipped to Moore County in April.
In addition, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital and area clinics have been administering vaccines.
Beginning Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that some members of Group 4 will be eligible, a week earlier than previously anticipated. “Group 4 will be open to people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness,” said Gov. Cooper. “The additional members of Group 4 will be eligible for vaccines beginning April 7.”
Moore County Schools had previously announced the resumption of daily, in-person instruction for all grades beginning on March 29. Parents will continue to have the option of enrolling their children in virtual classes. “I know we are all happy to hear that,” said Wittmann.
All teachers in public and private schools, pre-schools and daycare facilities have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
“I want to express my appreciation not only for the work that is being done by our own staff but by the Army and Airforce who have come and been of tremendous assistance to us in making sure that vaccinations were given in the right way,” said Commissioner Gregory. “It has been very organized, both here and at FirstHealth. It has been most professional, and I want to say thank you.”
Several weeks ago, a team of the Air National Guard was sent to Moore County at the request of county officials. “They have been an integral part of our operation,” said Wittmann. “We hope to use this strike team to go out into the community once we get sufficient vaccines.”
~ Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.