By Meg Dickens
COVID-19 and the different vaccines available are an ever-present topic in today’s society. Many continue to argue whether safety measures like masks are necessary, even resorting to name-calling when views clash. According to the Johnson County Health Department, using mitigation techniques like social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent handwashing, could help this pass faster.
Johnson County is still offering vaccines to groups 1a through 1c and people ages 65 and older. A recent press release explains that the criteria for 1c expanded to include certain situational criteria. Now people 16 and older that either have diabetes, Down Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, or live with a pregnant woman are eligible through 1c. Johnson County has the Moderna vaccine available.
Although COVID-19 positive case reports are down, coming in at 12 as of March 15, Public Health Educator Angie Stout warns that this may not be a sign of a decline. Less positive cases are coming in but fewer people are being tested. There is not enough data to tell whether this is related.
Stout said she was unaware of any different strains of COVID-19 in the area but would check with other parties to confirm or deny if any exist within the county. She got back to The Tomahawk with information from the Regional Health Department Director Dr. David Kirschke stating it is a possibility.
“COVID variants have been documented in Tennessee, including in the Northeast region,” said Kirschke. “It is likely that they are spreading more widely than we currently have the ability to detect.”
A portion of currently eligible Johnson Countians are not getting vaccinated if current stock is any proof. According to the US Census Bureau, around 23 percent of locals are ages 65 and above, making them fall into the current vaccination phase. The health department reports having a few extra doses, reportedly speaking to the Johnson County Senior Center a few days ago to see if any eligible members would like to be vaccinated.
“Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best and safest way to become immune to COVID-19, and we want to encourage everyone aged 16 years and older to take advantage of increasing vaccine availability when they are in phase,” said Tennessee Health Department Assessment & Planning Coordinator Kristen Spencer.
Stout agreed with Spencer on behalf of the local health department wholeheartedly, urging anyone who can get vaccinated to do so. Anyone can register through Tennessee’s government COVID-19 website. Stout assures that the health department will help anyone who needs help with the process.
Anyone interested in getting vaccinated should register through COVID19.tn.gov. Find the closest available vaccine at vaccinefinder.org. If you are currently ineligible, you will receive information when that status changes. Direct any general questions to the Regional Health Department at (423) 979-4689. For any local inquiries, contact the Johnson County Health Department at (423) 727-9731.