The demand for COVID-19 vaccines has overwhelmed the local health department, but everyone who wants one will ultimately get one, said a representative of the department.
“There are phases that were initially designed by the CDC and then were tweaked by the state,” said Malinda Ely, a representative of the Haralson County Health Department, at the Haralson County Commission meeting on Tuesday. “There’s no timeline as far as months or weeks to progress through those. It’s just as we begin to see a decline in need in one group, we move on to the next.”
The department is currently in phase 1A+, Ely said. That includes health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, adults 65 and older and their caregivers as well as first responders. Those in long-term care facilities are being vaccinated by CVS and Walgreens, she said.
By Tuesday, the Haralson County Health Department had administered more than 460 vaccines, she said. The staff give out the vaccines that they are allotted by the state each week as quickly as possible, but they have no control over how much of the vaccine they get, she said.
The department is administering the vaccines by appointment only, Ely said. The staff is working their way through the 15 pages of people who signed up through the online portal — that portal is now closed — and also making appointments for those eligible by phone, she said.
If an eligible person is trying to make an appointment and having trouble getting through, Ely said to be persistent. They are taking calls as they can. But she asked that people not come in to the office to make an appointment, because it can be very crowded right now.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I would work 12 hours a day, seven days a week if we had enough vaccine to get everybody in Haralson County who wanted to be vaccinated,” Ely said.
Residents of Georgia can get their vaccines anywhere in the state, she said. So, Haralson County residents can try to make appointments in other counties if they would prefer, Ely said.
The department is administering Moderna’s vaccine. It doesn’t have the capability of storing the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at ultra cold temperatures, she said. That vaccine is mixed in batches and once mixed must be administered within six hours. So it’s important that people keep the appointments once they make them, Ely said.
The vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective. The second does is given about 28 days after the first dose. Ely suggested people who have received their first dose call about one week or one week and a half in advance of the fourth week to make the appointment for their second dose.
“It does not have to be on that exact 28th day; that’s not a drop dead day,” Ely said, adding, “We do want to give it as close as possible.”
Above all, she urged people to be patient. The staff of the department is doing the best it can.
Ely also said that the department is trying to find nurses who would be willing to work some extra hours to help give vaccines at the health department.
“I definitely wish that we had enough vaccine to give it to everybody who wants to get it right now,” Ely said. “The sooner we get vaccine in arms the sooner this pandemic will end and we can all go back to life as we know it.”
In other business commissioners:
• approved closing Little Circle from south of Broad Street to the end at Edgar Bell Road. The commissioners held a public hearing about closure and received no objections. The property owners on the road requested the closure.
• appointed Patty Hutcheson to the Hospital Authority Board for a three-year term that will end on Dec. 31, 2023.
• appointed Jason Hurley to the Region 1 EMS Board for a two-year term ending on Dec. 31, 2022.
• appointed E-911 Director Cathy Thompson to the Western Area Regional Radio System Board Authority to replace former Commissioner Adam Budde. To serve on the board, the appointee has to be a user of the system. There is no specific term to the appointment.
• reappointed Jerry Wright to the Board of Assessors for a six-year term ending on Sept. 13, 2026.
• reappointed Alison Palmer as county clerk, Tisinger Vance as the county legal firm and Commissioner Jamie Brown as vice chair of the Board of Commissioners.
• approved a contract with Motorola to upgrade the E911 system for $709,000 payable over two years. The cost will be paid with special purpose local option sales tax revenue.
• failed to approve a request by three of the four Constitutional officers of the county for a $200 monthly stipend.
The new Tax Commissioner Natasha Pope, Clerk of Superior Court Amy Muse and Sheriff Stacy Williams all requested the stipend to pay for various expenses in their offices. Commissioners John Daniel and Jamie Brown both voted yes. But, Commission Chairman Ronnie Ridley abstained from the vote because if the stipend were approved it could mean that his salary, which is tied to the sheriff’s salary, could increase. Commissioner David Tarpley voted no, stating that he thought the issue should be brought up for the new budget, which will begin in five months. The proposal would have needed three yes-votes to pass. The stipend if given to all four Constitutional officers along with the increase in Ridley’s salary would have cost the county $12,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year.
• responded to a petition requesting an audit of the Haralson County Development Authority’s agreement with iWispr to build towers in underserved areas of Haralson County to expand internet service in exchange for $200,000 in SPLOST dollars. Ridley said that the Development Authority and the county are both audited annually. He reached out to Will Robinson C.P.A. who did the audits and the auditors were satisfied that there was nothing out of order or suspicious in the audits.