More people eligible for vaccines
The vaccination situation has flipped in Jefferson County, from waiting lists and long lines, to surplus vaccine.
"This was one of the first weekends that we had vaccine in our freezer over the weekend," says Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker, "simply because we didn't get enough bodies to put it in."
After months in "extreme risk" purgatory, Jefferson County finally has breathing room, with very few new cases and more people getting vaccinated.
"Kind of the opposite of the super spreader event, where one person is responsible for spreading the virus," says Baker. "Now one person vaccinated can be responsible for decreasing the spread of the virus."
This week, people age 45 and older with underlying health conditions may get vaccinated. Starting next Monday, people age 16 and older with underlying health conditions may get vaccinated, along with frontline workers.
"The way our economy is set up locally, the majority of our employees here are frontline workers," says Baker. "That's going to be finally where we get to vaccinate at a level that public health has really been wanting for a couple of months now."
Frontline workers include any worker whose job involves interacting with the public in person.
Baker wants to vaccinate them now, not later. "We're chomping at the bit to go forward, we're ready," says Baker. "We have the staff to do it, we have the vaccine, to really start opening it up even more, but we're waiting for the state to give us the official OK to really do so."
County Commissioners have asked the state to let Jefferson County move ahead of the state's timeline. The state said no.
"If I had my way, we would prioritize everyone to get the vaccine," says Baker. "We'd be so far ahead of the curve."
Public health plans to use up every drop of vaccine it has for the people in the county currently eligible.
They plan to vaccinate 500 people Wednesday, March 31, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They also plan to have two big events every week in April, all around the county, to get vaccines into arms as quickly as possible.
"The sooner we get them vaccinated," says Baker, "the sooner the spread throughout the community decreases."
In the meantime, don't go crazy. "Low risk doesn't mean no risk," says Baker. "We as a community have done phenomenally to get where we are now at low risk. The last thing we want is for all caution to be thrown to the wind and have our cases spike back up."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.