JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Local health experts say COVID-19 vaccine supplies are rising, and vaccination appointments are still available.
Dr. David Kirschke, Director of the Northeast Regional Health Office, told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that in larger counties, appointments are filling up faster than in smaller, rural counties.
He attributed this lull in people lining up to get vaccinated at the health department to community partners like Ballad Health and pharmacies also being able to vaccinate people, but not everyone who is eligible is getting vaccinated.
Dr. Kirschke said data shows certain age groups are more hesitant to get their vaccines in certain areas.
“About 65-60% of our people 75, and 85 and older, have gotten vaccinated, so in our larger counties there’s very good uptake. In our more rural counties and smaller counties, it does tend to be below 50% of those age groups that have gotten vaccinated,” he said.
With the state in Phase 1-c, Kirschke said a large population in Northeast Tennessee is now eligible to get vaccinated, but not everyone eligible is making an appointment at the health department.
“We do find that in our larger counties, appointments book up faster and out farther in time, whereas in our smaller counties, there’s more availability,” he told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais.
Also included in phase 1-c, some teenagers with chronic health conditions.
“Obviously, any dose that we can get into a 16 or 17-year- old is going to help limit spread among their friends, so certainly every dose is a dose toward the end of the pandemic,” Ballad Health Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift said.
Dr. Kirschke added that coronavirus numbers are going down but there’s still a moderate amount of transmission in Northeast Tennessee. With variants of the virus hitting the region, he said it’s important for those who are eligible to go get vaccinated.
“Our surveillance is not very robust because our state lab cannot yet test for those, it has to go to CDC, so we do think that there’s many more of these variants being transmitted that we know about,” he added.
In the quest to get every American vaccinated against COVID-19, President Joe Biden announced vaccines will be available to all adults by May. Kirschke said that at a local level, this goal would be achievable.
“Especially with all of our community partners, and the increase in vaccine supply – everybody that wants to be vaccinated should be able to do so in that time frame,” he said.