Chris Grimes, the county’s EMA director, gave the Board of Commissioners an update on where Forsyth County stands in its COVID-19 vaccine distribution during its work session on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Grimes spoke about the public vaccination events that were held the last two weeks for those in the 65+ age category, plus caregivers, and said he was pleased with the success of the events.
“We filled 2,400 spots in right about an hour and a half,” Grimes said. “They went very quickly, we knew they would, but [they went] probably even quicker than we thought they would.”
He told the board that 1,411 people were given the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. Volunteers from the fire department, sheriff’s office and Northside Hospital Forsyth pitched in to help.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s EMA, [the fire department], sheriff’s office, Northside [Hospital Forsyth], communications, … we have been one team, and that’s what we will continue to be,” Grimes said.
Grimes also said that over 50 people had applied to volunteer within the last two weeks, all with medical backgrounds. The county is currently in the process of getting them vetted and trained to become vaccinators.
“This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. So just because [we have] our volunteers, we may not be able to use them at the events like last week and this week, we’re in this for the long haul, and we’re going to continue to support public health going forward,” Grimes said.
While Grimes explained that the first two weeks of public vaccination events had been successful, the county has seen a decrease in the supply chain of COVID-19 vaccine doses.
“We are not going to be opening the next two weeks’ events until we confirm, and public health confirms, there is vaccine allocated for those,” Grimes said. “We do not want to open that and have to tell anybody … we can’t do that … because we don’t have the vaccine. We don’t want to open it until it is confirmed.”
Grimes told the board that he would continue to notify the commissioners and county as soon as he receives new information from public health.
“Once we get the confirmation, we will be ready to open it. We have the infrastructure in place, and we could open it,” Grimes said. “But we just are not comfortable doing that until we have that confirmation from public health.”
Grimes said the allocation of vaccines is not for local or even district public health offices to decide, but is overseen by the state and federal levels of public health.
“If you watch the news, it’s not just Forsyth County that’s dealing with [a decrease in doses] right now,” Grimes said. “It’s really not just a statewide but a nationwide issue. But as production ramps up, we’ll be able to hopefully get more, but that’s just where [Forsyth County is right now].”
“Public health will continue to schedule appointments, they will continue to see their appointments, but the support for these large events is what we’re going to have to wait and see what the vaccine status is,” he said.
Chairwoman Cindy Jones Mills expressed concern for individuals who wished to sign up for a vaccination appointment but did not have a computer.
“I’m still hearing from people though that don’t have a computer, and … a lot of people calling frantically for people that don’t have a way to sign up online, and I don’t know what to tell them,” Mills said.
Grimes said that, while he did not have confirmation from an official source, the state might be looking at implementing a centralized scheduling system to assist the population in Georgia that does not have access to a computer.
District 2 Commissioner Alfred John asked Grimes about seniors and individuals who could not drive to either schedule appointments or attend one due to medical reasons.
Grimes explained that the county partnered with Common Courtesy, a pilot ride sharing service, who could provide transportation for any eligible person who cannot, or should not, operate a vehicle.
Riders are provided a driver, whose background check is approved, through either Uber or Lyft. For more information or to sign up for the program visit www.forsythco.com, go to the Departments & Offices tab and click on Public Transportation.
Grimes said he hopes people research the vaccination location, which type of vaccine they are getting (Pfizer or Moderna) and be overall knowledgeable of the two-step process.
“I will challenge anybody that they go somewhere, whether it be a private doctor’s office, to a pharmacy, wherever they go, they need to know that process [of getting a second vaccine dose],” Grimes said. “Really, I recommend that you know that process before you even get the [first] vaccine to know what that’s going to look like.”
“I encourage people to be educated. Know which [vaccine] you’re getting (Pfizer and Moderna), know what the return time is and know what that [vaccination] location is doing to be able to provide that second shot,” he said.
While the next two weeks of vaccination events have not been confirmed, Grimes is hopeful that the county will continue to provide vaccines to those that want them.
“We want everybody that wants to be able to get the vaccine to have that ability,” Grimes said. “We’re really hopeful that we will be able to do more [vaccination] events coming forward, we just don’t want to do anything until we have that confirmation on the vaccine.”