Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard said Friday that Wilkes County’s response to COVID-19 vaccinations remains at best at a plateau, prompting consideration of ending her department’s drive-through vaccination clinics.
Willard said that when the drive-through clinics at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge and on Saturdays at Wilkes schools are ended, she and her staff will focus primarily on administering COVID-19 vaccinations in-house at the health department building on College Street.
Willard said the health department has reduced the number of clinics on the third Saturday of each month to two Wilkes schools in different ends of the county instead of four, starting on April 17 when they were held at East Wilkes and West Wilkes middle schools. She said 415 people were vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine at the two locations combined on April 17.
Willard said decreased demand in vaccinations was expected as the percentage of older Wilkes residents vaccinated increased, leaving younger people who are less concerned about health risks of COVID-19. She said first dose vaccinations given by the health department decreased from 1,200 to 800 per week, then to 600 and finally 400 last week.
Willard said she is engaged in conversations with Wilkes school officials about potential efforts to encourage students ages 16 and 17 to get vaccinated. Pfizer is the only approved vaccine for people under age 18 and no vaccine has been approved for people younger than 16 in the U.S.
Willard noted that the health department only had one clinic with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (on April 8) before it was pulled by the state due to blood clot issues elsewhere. She said 213 people were vaccinated then.
As of Tuesday, 20.8% (14,248 people) of Wilkes County’s population was fully vaccinated, while 35.1% of the adult population of the state was fully vaccinated. Willard said people under 18 account for less than 1% of those vaccinated in Wilkes at this point.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are slowing increasing in Wilkes. As of Tuesday, 6,486 Wilkes residents had tested positive since the pandemic began. Wilkes has 109 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths, including one this week and two last week.