June 19, 2021

Health Department doles out first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Heard County first responders

Callie Hill, Nurse Practitioner with District IV Public Health at Heard County Health Department administers the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 to Heard County Firefighter/EMT Brian McKenzie Wednesday morning (Photo: John Ellis/District 4 Public Health)

(Franklin, GA) — The Heard County Health Department on Wednesday administered the first 15 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to some local health care workers and first responders as part of its initial phase to halt the coronavirus pandemic.

Local firefighter/EMT Dylan “Brian” McKenzie was the very first in Heard County to receive the initial dose of Moderna vaccine.

According to District 4 Public Health Workforce Development Coordinator John Ellis, McKenzie and others who received the vaccine on Wednesday will return in about four weeks for the second dose of the two-part vaccine.

Heard County Fire Chief Steve Wirth and Deputy Chief Jim Short also chose to receive the non-mandatory vaccine.

“I see it no differently than any other vaccine,” said Chief Wirth after receiving the vaccine. “I always get the flu shot each year.”

Chief Wirth says that the vaccine will remain available for employees in the future even if they choose initially not to receive it as part of Phase 1-A.

Phase 1-A includes paid and unpaid persons serving in a healthcare setting who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

Hospital staff, public health clinical staff, EMS, and other first responders, long term care facility (LTCF) staff, and urgent care facility staff are examples of people who are included in this first phase.

However, Governor Brian Kemp and Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., last night announced plans to add adults aged 65 and older to the current group of individuals eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccination.

Healthcare workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities are already in this highest priority group.

The expanded administration of vaccine to the elderly is expected to begin within the next two weeks provided there is adequate vaccine supply available.

At this time, District 4 Public Health does not have adequate vaccine supply to include adults aged 65 and older.

All counties in District 4 Public Health are currently vaccinating first responders and healthcare providers who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.

During the next two weeks, District 4 Public Health staff and county health department employees will work with community partners to plan for increased traffic at Points of Dispensing (PODs). This planning is critical for smooth delivery of vaccine to the public in a drive through setting.

District 4 Public Health will continue to provide updates on www.district4health.org letting the public know when vaccine becomes available.

“This expansion of 1-A eligible vaccination criteria gives us time to plan and work with our local communities to ensure safe and efficient deployment of limited vaccine supplies,” said Dr. Townsend, Interim District Health Director.

“We understand that you want this as soon as possible and we want you to get your COVID-19 vaccine, but we need your patience over the next two weeks while we prepare.”

It is critical that even as vaccine becomes available to more people, all residents continue to wear a mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

While the COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in preventing illness in the individual being vaccinated, it is not yet known if the vaccine fully prevents person to person transmission or asymptomatic infections.

As of December 31, 2020, District 4 Public Health has administered over 1,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to first responders and healthcare providers.

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