The Perry County Health Department is continuing to offer COVID-19 vaccinations. Beginning the week of Feb. 15, vaccinations are anticipated to continue for those 65 and older and for those born with or who have early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood, which put them at a higher risk for adverse outcomes due to COVID-19. The list of qualifying conditions can be found on our website. Any Perry County resident can register to receive the vaccine on our website at perrycountyhealth.info. Click on the red box and follow the instructions. Someone from the Health Department will contact you when you qualify, and when we have a dose of vaccine for you.
Each of us is certainly aware that COVID-19 has made each and every part of our day-to-day lives more complicated! That has never been more obvious to those of us working in public health. Small health departments, like us, quickly became overwhelmed with COVID-19 tasks in early 2020 and it doesn’t appear as if 2021 is going to be any nicer to us! Let’s look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the COVID-19 vaccination process.
First, the good! We cannot begin to express our appreciation for our partners who have gone above and beyond to help us. They are too many to name! So many factors influence how the doses of vaccine actually make it to an individual and we are often changing the process or the approach on a daily basis. As of Feb. 14, 3,424 residents (total from all Perry County vaccine providers) have received either first or second doses of vaccine. Thank you again to all of those folks coming to our drive-thru or into our office who have been so courteous, patient, and appreciative.
Second, the bad! The supply and the demand for the vaccine do not match! We have so many people wanting to be vaccinated and we are so happy that our population understands the importance of receiving the vaccine. The health commissioner, Angela DeRolph, is notified each week how much vaccine we will be receiving. This number varies every week and can vary from day to day. Sometimes we don’t receive what we expected and sometimes we receive more than we expect. This is really no one’s fault. Pointing fingers and blaming will not help us get this job done! The numbers for vaccinating the population of Ohio are staggering. Let’s take a look at just Perry County.
In 2019, according to census data, Perry County had a population of approximately 36,000 people. Approximately 23 percent of those residents are under the age of 18 (not currently being vaccinated). According to the CDC, the U.S. needs about 70 percent of the adult population to be vaccinated in order to stop the spread of the virus. Using some math skills, this mean that the Perry County Health Department is planning on vaccinating between 19,000 and 20,000 people.
Once we receive the vaccine, the countdown begins. We are charged with administering that vaccine as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our “phone team” goes to work with scheduling appointments for first doses. Those qualifying for the vaccine are contacted from our registration list based on the amount of vaccine we received. The Perry County Health Department has only two full-time nurses qualified to give shots. We have hired nurses to help us. Remember, second dose appointments are being scheduled also as those second doses of vaccine are guaranteed to arrive. In order for that to happen, every dose given has to be recorded within 24 hours (those recorded numbers are used to ensure that we receive the correct number of second doses). While getting more vaccine at one time would help us vaccinate more people, it is important to remember that we need to be able to GET the vaccine to the people.
And so, the ugly. There are so many factors that fall into place for us to administer the doses of vaccine that we receive. Many of those factors are happening behind the scenes. No one at the Health Department has a “normal” day anymore. We work together as a team! Every person at the Health Department is answering phones. Appointments have to be made. Supplies need to be ordered. Finances have to be managed. Vaccines have to be administered. Records need to be kept and recorded. The list of tasks needing someone’s attention is daunting.
In true COVID-19 fashion, things continue to make the job more difficult. The cold and the snow have hampered our ability to continue drive-thru locations. This is most definitely the best way for us to vaccinate large numbers of people the fastest. However, for those employees and volunteers outside last week, the cold was miserable. The snow makes our parking lot slippery and we worry about people falling. Most of us do not like to drive on snow covered roads and we need to reschedule appointments to keep everyone safe. With this winter weather, who knows what will happen next!
What we do know is that the people who live, work and play in Perry County are strong, committed, and resilient! While the journey may be bumpy, we will most assuredly get the job done! Stay tuned and hang on for the ride.
For more information about any program or service offered by the Perry County Health Department, contact us at 740-342-5179 or visit us on online at perrycountyhealth.info
Deborah Raney is the Director of Health Education at the Perry County Health Department and is a weekly contributor to The Perry County Tribune.