New Challenges Emerge As First Round of Covid-19 Vaccines Arrive In Hamilton County

Even With The Approval Of New Staff Authorized Yesterday, The Hamilton County Health Department Struggles To Find Suitable Candidates To Fill The Need For Help In Vaccine Distribution.

Hamilton County, TN – Hamilton County is preparing to receive the first round of Covid-19 vaccines this week, but with that comes some new challenges.

Five hundred new cases were reported on Wednesday, which is the second highest number to be seen in one day. In addition, two hundred people were hospitalized and forty-four were in ICU. Wednesday’s cases would bring the county’s overall case count to 24,000.

However, Hamilton County is hopeful that these first vaccines will be a step toward getting everything back to normal. The first round is to be used for healthcare workers, and it is expected to be out this week.

On Wednesday, Hamilton County Health Department Administrator, Becky Barnes, attended the County Commission meeting to talk about the vaccine. Barnes said, “We are anticipating that hospitals will have vaccines for their staff this week. That is definitely subject to change, but that was the last update that we have heard. That is just hospitals and just their staff. And that vaccine goes directly to hospitals.”

At the County Commission meeting, two new state-funded positions at the health department were approved. These roles would be an emergency response coordinator and an additional pharmacy technician. These staff positions were created as a way to help the county when it comes time for vaccines to start rolling out.

“Every day all this person does is work on vaccine implementation in the community, and then we need another pharmacy tech as we deal with, obviously, the larger number of vaccines that we’re going to be dealing with.” Barnes said at the commission meeting about the two new roles. “The state just had a finite amount of money and said ‘What are your needs right now?’ and so those were the two needs that we thought we needed the most right now in implementing the vaccination stage.”

It is still uncertain when the vaccine will be widely available to everyone, but the state of Tennessee has six tiers of distribution, which were decided on based on the social vulnerability index created by the Centers for Disease Control. The first tier would go out to high-exposure healthcare workers and first responders, which would equal around 450,000 people.

Other healthcare workers would receive the vaccine during the second tier. Tennesseans who are high risk are included in the third tier. The fourth tier would give the vaccine to members of critical infrastructure, which includes child care workers, corrections, and people with a moderate risk level. Two million young adults, children, and industry workers would receive the vaccine during the fifth tier and the sixth tier would take care of the remaining 500,000 Tennesseans.

The time frame for these tiers is still unclear and Barnes said, “All I can say is that we are hiring as many people, getting as many relationships in our community as possible in place and our intent is to vaccinate as many people in our community as fast as we can, as fast as we can get the vaccine.”

While the state has been funding new hires to help with rolling out vaccines, the main problem has been finding enough available candidates.

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