Commission Approves Budget Increase To Support Vaccination Efforts, Some Residents Have Vaccine Concerns

The Hamilton County Commission Gives Approval For Two Additional Positions In Health Department And Expresses Support For Vaccine Efforts, While Some In The Public Feel The COVID Vaccine Is Harmful. Council Agrees To Review Both Schools Of Thought.

Hamilton County, TN – During the Hamilton County Commission meeting on December 16th, the Commission gave approval for an increase in the amount of $109,644 to the Health Department’s budget to cover extra expenses expected to be incurred once the COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Hamilton County. 

The additional budget will go toward funding two additional positions, a Lead Emergency Management Planner and a Pharmacy Technician. 

Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes said, “The Emergency Management Planner will work on vaccine implementation in the community. And we need another Pharmacy Tech to deal with all the additional vaccines.” 

These two positions will be designated as Hamilton County employees. 

The Covid-specific positions are funded through the State and have a projected end date of July 2021. 

The Emergency Management Planner position will be filled by a current employee that will transition temporarily to cover the new responsibilities.   

Becky Barnes stated that the Health Department’s goal is to “vaccinate as many people in our community as fast as we can.” 

District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe expressed concerns that have been communicated to him by the public regarding adequate staffing to cover the needs for mass vaccinations. 

Barnes stated that the Health Department has hired over a hundred additional people in response to COVID and are constantly interviewing more. 

According to Barnes, Hamilton County hospitals should receive the vaccine for their staffs by the end of this week.  

She stated that after hospital staffs, the remainder of the high-risk tier will be next in line but there are no current estimates available for dissemination to the general public. 

District 5 Commissioner Katherlyn Geter asked if the Emergency Management Planner position will have the responsibility to educate the community about the vaccine.  She expressed that many people in her District are fearful of the vaccine and have said they will not take it. 

Barnes stated that the two positions will probably not be dealing with that aspect and that education efforts have not yet begun since the vaccine is not yet available.  

She stated that the Health Department will rely heavily on the leaders in the community to express to the public that, “everyone needs to be vaccinated.” 

Geter stated that they should be proactive in education as many people are getting misinformation about the vaccines from social media and the internet in lieu of official data coming from health officials. 

Mayor Jim Coppinger said, “The best place to get your information regarding the virus and vaccine is through the Health Department.  If you get it there, it will be accurate.” 

When the Council opened the phone lines for calls from the public, some of the different beliefs regarding the vaccine were expressed. 

Carmen Hunter stated that she has been speaking with the Hamilton County community regarding the potential dangers of the vaccine, especially for children. 

She expressed concerns that the emotional, mental and physical well-being of children from a psychological standpoint does not appear to be being monitored by anyone on the Health Department or the Board of Education during this time of heightened stress. 

Hunter also stated that much of the illness can be linked to compromised immune systems due to the fear and stress of the current environment.   

Hunter urged the committee to do their due diligence in researching the vaccine before taking it themselves. “This is a vaccine that has only been said to control symptoms, offers no cure… We need healthy leaders in place,” Hunter said. 

District 6 Commissioner David Sharpe said, “There were some claims made there about the vaccine and I’m just curious as to the sources from which the claims were made.” 

District 2 Commissioner Chip Baker said he would send the list of references Hunter sent him to the Council for review. 

Baker said, “As we all know…there are many camps and she (Hunter) represents one and that’s fine, we respect that.  She’s got a lot of information that you (the Council) can read through and form your own opinion.” 

District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd stated that his son is a research scientist at Pfizer. 

Boyd said his son “is extremely concerned that there is a lot of misinformation being put out there. He works with a global team, not only on infectious diseases but chronic diseases.  He’s right in the middle of this. ” 

“He sent me all the peer revues that the vaccine went through and it would be beneficial for each of the commissioners to take time to review them as opposed to taking comments from people who have information from questionable resources,” Boyd said. 

Commissioner Baker asked Boyd to send the Pfizer peer revues to all the commissioners for review. 

In closing on the subject, District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey said, “I’m willing to take one for the team, I’ll take that shot and be the guinea pig.  If someone has the opportunity to take that shot and they don’t want it, pass my name along and get me up on that list.” 

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