Hamilton County Officials Discuss Moderna Vaccine, Plans For Coming Months

Hamilton County, TN – In a Media Briefing yesterday at 3PM, the Hamilton County Mayor along with Health Department Officials gave updates regarding the arrival of the Moderna COVID vaccine and plans for its use in Hamilton County. 

Mayor Jim Coppinger said, “The good news is the vaccine has arrived and it does provide us with a lot of hope.” 

He did qualify this statement by saying that it will take some time to administer the vaccine to everyone in the community that wants it. 

“We ask the public to bear with us as we start to roll it out to our first responders and as we get to the general public over the next months,” Coppinger said. 

Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Becky Barnes stated that the Health Department  just received 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine on the 22nd with an additional 1,800 doses scheduled for to arrive on the 23rd. 

“We will be using this vaccine to vaccinate groups that qualify for Phase 1A1 in the COVID-19 vaccination plan for Tennessee,” Barnes said. 

Tier 1A1 includes First Responders, staff working COVID-19 mass-testing sites, home health staff, providers of student health services K-12 and Universities, staff and residents of long-term care facilities, staff and residents of intellectually or developmentally disabled facilities, detention centers, Department of Children Services, Rehabilitation and Psychiatric hospitals, and hospital staff which receive their vaccine directly. 

For much the above-mentioned groups, the Health Department will be giving vaccinations at their drive-through vaccination site for five days starting on December 23rd, skipping Christmas Eve and Christmas then resuming on the 26th. 

“We have only scheduled these five days because we feel we will be able to give all the vaccinations we currently have by that time.  As we receive more vaccines, we will open more days, ” Barnes said. 

The Point of Dispensing Clinic (POD) is located at River Park.   

After there is enough vaccine available, the POD will run 7 days a week.  The park will remain closed until vaccinations are completed. 

Barnes said, “We would like to have another pod.  We will set up as many pods as we have vaccines for.” 

“We are anxious to have the vaccination available for everyone.  But, right now, these vaccinations are for high-priority groups, ” Barnes said. 

Barnes stated that they do not yet have enough vaccines to fully cover all of Tier 1A1 and they expect to get more deliveries of the vaccine intermittently. 

“When we are ready to move to another tier, we will make an announcement,” Barnes said. 

Doctor Fernando Urrego, County Pediatrician, spoke of the vaccines themselves. 

Urrego stated that the Moderna vaccine getting FDA approval is a “Game changer” and will “Change the Playing Field.” 

Urrego went on to explain some of the science behind the vaccines and stated that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been 94% effective in preventing the disease in all the parts of the population that was included in the studies. 

Urrego stated there are no concerns that the ongoing mutation of the COVID virus will change the efficacy of the vaccines. 

He stated that there are side effects to getting the vaccines, typically including pain and redness at the sight of the injection.   But also, fever, chills and muscle aches. 

“This is a sign our bodies are making an immune response.  So, although painful and uncomfortable, it’s a sign that things are working,” Urrego said. 

Urrego stated that there have been some severe reactions with the Pfizer vaccine and also some with the Moderna vaccine, although rare. 

“The PODs where we will be administering the vaccines will be ready for any allergic reaction should they occur,” Urrego said. 

He stated that there have been six reported allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine of the 277,000 that have received it.   

He also reported that the Pfizer vaccine is for 16 years and older.  Moderna is for 18 years and older. 

“We now have access to two vaccines that will undoubtedly change this pandemic.  It will finally start to decrease the incidence rate and, in time, we will be back to a place of ‘normal’.  We are finally starting to see the end of this very, very long tunnel,” Urrego said. 

Mayor Jim Coppinger stated that, “What we’re seeing right now is a rather large uptick in the number of new cases as a result of the gatherings at Thanksgiving.  Think this through as you plan your Christmas gatherings.” 

Coppinger stated that much of the spread of the virus is a result of not only exposure in public places but in individual homes, “with people you invite into your home that are not a part of your family.” 

Coppinger said that hospitals are becoming crowded and the healthcare workers are stressed. 

Coppinger once again stressed to the community, “Wear your mask, socially distance, good personal hygiene, washing your hands constantly and avoid small and large gatherings.” 

“The next several weeks are really critical, not only to our community, not only to each other, but also to the services that are provided by our hospitals, “Coppinger said. 

Coppinger expressed that they want to be sure everyone in the area has access to good medical care. 

In closing, Mayor Coppinger said, “Do not let your guard down.  We are too close with the vaccine. None of us want to be the last person in this county to contract the virus.”   

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