Welcome to 2021. It’s great to turn the page on what has undoubtedly been the most challenging year for many people.
While we don’t know exactly what lies ahead, the release of two COVID-19 vaccines (so far) provides hope that when we’re ready to say goodbye to 2021, the world will be getting back to normal, or perhaps a new normal.
That means that while it’s understandable to look forward to what may lie ahead, we’re still in the fight when it comes to COVID-19, and we need to remember that.
After all, as of Thursday, Monongalia County was at 1,746 active COVID cases. That’s one- third of all cases reported since mid-March.
So for now, we have to continue to wear masks in public, maintain our social distance and keep up with thorough hand-washing techniques. The need for those will not change even as more and more members of our community receive a COVID-19 vaccine. And, really, washing your hands well with soap and water is always a good practice to follow.
Monongalia County Health Department received its first of several anticipated weekly shipments of vaccine in mid-December and began vaccinating first responders and health department employees.
On Wednesday, MCHD’s public health nurses worked hard to administer 180 vaccine doses to continue to protect the county’s EMS, firefighter and law enforcement communities.
And now that it’s 2021, we’ll be rolling up our sleeves and getting right back to work, conducting free COVID-19 testing from 9-11 a.m. Monday at the WVU Rec Center and then administering COVID vaccines to individuals 80 years old and older from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday at the West Virginia Army National Guard Readiness Center.
Anyone who wants to make an appointment for the vaccination clinic on Monday can call 304-598-5196 from noon to 5 p.m. today. There will be six lines taking appointments. If you get a message, hang up and try again. After all appointments are filled, messages can be left and names will be taken for the next clinic.
Wheelchairs will be available at the event and individuals will be asked on the phone if they need one so someone can be ready to help at the event.
A great deal of information about the vaccine can be found on the internet. The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources has added a vaccine dose tracker to its COVID-19 dashboard (https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx), so everyone can keep tabs on how many doses the state has received and how many have been administered.
The DHHR also has created a state COVID vaccine web page that provides answers to myriad questions about the vaccine and when and how people can get it. It can be easily accessed by conducting an internet search for “West Virginia DHHR Vaccine.”
MCHD is still in the process of planning for the logistics and location of providing the vaccine to the general public. You can watch this space for additional details and/or “like” and follow us on our social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates.
In the meantime, there have been a lot of questions about the vaccine, so here are some answers to ones we’ve been getting at Monongalia County Health Department.
Q. When can I get vaccinated?
A. The goal is to begin vaccinating members of the general population in March during Phase 2 of the West Virginia COVID-19 Vaccination Program, although Gov. Jim Justice’s announcement moves that up with an order to begin vaccinating individuals 80 years old and older. Phase 1 started in mid-December and should go through February. During this time, vaccines will go to hospitals, long-term care, pharmacies, public health, emergency responders, other health care providers, teachers and other sectors for critical services, such as utilities, transportation and government.
Q. How will I know when it’s my turn? Do I have to sign up?
A. MCHD Clinical Services has been reaching out to organizations included in Phase 1 to set up inoculations and is looking for more ways to allow individuals to schedule an appointment when it’s their turn.
Individuals in Phase 2 should stay tuned for more details. The WV DHHR COVID-19 vaccine web page will be updated as more information becomes available, and MCHD also will release details as they become available, both on social media and on our webpage monchd.org/testing–vaccines.html.
Q. Can I get my influenza vaccine around the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine?
A. MCHD recommends getting a flu shot in the fall, well before the holidays. However, we also like to say that it’s never too late to get one, and we still have them to give. You do need to leave two weeks between the time you get the flu and COVID vaccines.
So if you are not anticipating getting the COVID vaccine in the next few weeks, call 304-598-5119 to schedule an influenza vaccine. And if you are getting a COVID vaccine soon, or have already gotten one, you need to wait at least two weeks after the second dose to get a flu shot.
Usually, we like to ease into a new year, but there’s a lot going on right now. We know a lot of people have questions, and public health is working on the answers. So stay tuned for more updates.