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Want a COVID-19 vaccine? Chances much better now that you can get one locally


People tired of hunting for a COVID-19 vaccine can start working the phones again.

After three months of scrambling to get enough COVID-19 vaccines to go around, Letcher County medical facilities are now scrambling to find enough people to take the vaccines.

After the first two rounds of vaccines were given, the pool of people waiting to be vaccinated dried up, Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dena Sparkman said.

“I’ve got 99 Moderna I can give tomorrow, but I’ve only got 18 people signed up,” Sparkman said Tuesday morning.

But by Tuesday afternoon, calling patients and getting the word out in the community had filled up all the slots available for Tuesday, plus a few.

“Whatever we don’t get tomorrow, we will put on the list for Thursday,” Sparkman said Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation received 1,200 doses last week that could be distributed at clinics in any of the counties the company serves.

“We are expected to give 90 percent and we gave 100 percent,” CEO Mike Caudill said.

The clinics received another 1,000 doses this week, including 400 from the state’s allotment for the Kentucky River District, 100 Johnson & Johnson and 500 Moderna from the federal government.

“The interesting thing with those Johnson & Johnson is we have an uptick in interest from people who passed on the Moderna who are interested in Johnson & Johnson because it’s just one shot,” Caudill said.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires two doses given 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine requires two doses given 28 days apart.

“That 1,200 we got that week, means somewhere down the road we’re going to have to give 2,400 in a week by the time we give the second dose,” Caudill said.

There have been some fears that people would not get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because its efficacy is lower than either the Moderna or Pfizer. However, experts say people should take any of the vaccines that are offered because all three far exceed the standards set for them by the federal government. All three offer essentially 100 percent protection from death from COVID-19.

Vaccines are also being given at the Letcher County Health Department, Pine Mountain Pharmacy and Walgreen in Jenkins.

The vaccines are now seen to be causing a sharp decrease in cases of COVID 19. Letcher County’s incident rate on Tuesday was 7.3 per 100,000, up slightly from the previous day, but still far below what it has been. Only 13 counties in the state were in the red zone for new cases.

Some people are still refusing the vaccine, however. In the Letcher County School District, 75 percent of employees agreed to get the shot when it was offered by the district. Nationally, the number is lower, with a full 41 percent saying they don’t trust the vaccine. At Mountain Comprehensive Care Centers (a mental health agency not related to Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation) Southern Region Director Adam Maggard said many people — including many employees of MCCC — are worried the vaccine wasn’t thoroughly tested.

“I’m not seeing a whole lot of people that are actually taking the vaccine. I’ve got around 30 employees and only 5 of them took it,” he said. “They said there wasn’t enough research on it, most of them.”

Pine Mountain Pharmacy late last week put out a call for more people to come there for vaccines because six people cancelled appointments in a single day.

The latest figures from state agencies on COVID-19 cases for Letcher and surrounding counties in Kentucky and Virginia are as follows: Knott – Total 1,078 (18 dead, incident rate 18.3); Lee – Total 1,208 (19 dead, incident rate 3.9); Leslie – Total 821 (2 dead, incident rate 14.5); Letcher – Total 1,718 (30 dead, incident rate 7.3); Owsley – Total 442 (10 dead, incident rate 25.9); Perry – Total 2,400 (40 dead, incident rate 9.4); Wolfe – Total 433 (4 dead, incident rate 4.0); Harlan – Total 2,427 (70 dead, 14.8 incident rate); Pike – Total 5,233 (61 dead, incident rate 14.6); Wise County, Va. – Total 2,915 (151 hospitalized, 93 dead); Norton, Va. – Total 242 (17 hospitalized, 6 dead).

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