By Meg Dickens
The COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the main focuses of this past year. Johnson County was slow to be affected but now has a growing infection rate and is housed in the highest spread per capita state. Now that vaccines are starting to circulate, many wonder when the public will have the option to vaccinate. The Tennessee Department of Health released a tentative plan to determine the details. Officials remind everyone that this is subject to change.
In a recent poll, approximately 57 percent of responding Tomahawk readers plan to take the vaccine once it is available. Another 15 percent is still undecided. That means that, out of responding readers, approximately 74 percent of readers may be lining up to be vaccinated. It seems like vaccination efforts currently focus on essential workers and those at high-risk for COVID-19.
Johnson County recently received Moderna vaccine doses at Industrial Park as part of the first group, 1a1. Group 1a1 includes first responders, healthcare workers, adults incapable of living alone due to a medical or mental condition, and a few other specific categories. The Tennessee Department of Health estimates this covers 450,000 people statewide. The next group, 1a2, focuses on outpatient healthcare workers and affects an estimated 200,000 people statewide.
Between 1a2 and 1b, people age 75 and up will become eligible for vaccines based solely on age. Phase 1b focuses on child educators and people age 65 and up. Officials expect availability sometime around February or March 2021. The last group in section one focuses on high-risk cases. 1c1 includes people with pulmonary fibrosis, heart failure, liver disease, obesity, and diabetes. Experts expect this should affect another 650,000 people in Tennessee.
Groups in section two focus on critical infrastructure. 2a focuses on social services, corrections officers, commercial food production, and public transit, while 2b focuses on communications, transportation (including postal workers), public infrastructure, and utility companies. Both groups average an accumulative 200,000 people in the state of Tennessee. People age 55 plus also become eligible within this time frame.
The final stage focuses on other high-risk exposure individuals. These include people in corrections, grocery workers, and those who live in congregate living facilities. Another 400,000 people are affected by this. The Tennessee Department of Health suggests people
ask their physician whether the COVID-19 vaccine is right for them. Visit COVID19.TN.gov/Vaccine for more information on the COVID-19 vaccine, its distribution plans, and county availability.