Once a month at middle schools

Wilkes Health Department staff administer Pfizer vaccine at East Wilkes Middle School on Saturday. Vaccination clinics are being held on the third Saturday of each month at the Wilkes middle schools.

Demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in Wilkes County has slowed, but Wilkes Health Department Director Rachel Willard said this was expected.

Illustrating the decreased demand, the Wilkes Health Department had 24 doses of Pfizer vaccine left over and had to dispose of them when drive-through vaccination clinics at the four Wilkes County middle schools ended Saturday.

These remained unused even though clinic staff began asking people being vaccinated for names and phone numbers of others wanting the shots near the end of the clinics. People with appointments at other times also were called.

Willard said 1,380 doses of Pfizer vaccine were allocated for the four clinics Saturday, the first of clinics planned on the third Saturday of each month at the four middle schools to help make it easier for Wilkes residents to get vaccinated.

She said health department staff knew older adults wanted to be vaccinated for COVID-19 so weren’t surprised by long lines of vehicles of people waiting for this in drive-through clinics in January and February, first for those 75 and older and later for 65 and older.

“We were prepared for less demand” when the vaccine was made available to people under 65, said Willard, explaining that surveys have shown less interest in being vaccinated for COVID-19 among those under 65.

“Also, some of the interest died down when we had such long lines because we couldn’t get enough of the vaccine. We had some missed opportunities then.”

Health department staff and volunteers at East Wilkes Middle School said several people from the Charlotte area and elsewhere outside Wilkes were vaccinated there Saturday due to difficulties getting the vaccine closer to their homes.

Willard said most of the people being vaccinated now at health department clinics are in Group 4 of the eligibility plan, which are those 16 and holder with health conditions that make them more at risk with COVID-19.

For the immediate future, the health department will continue weekly drive-through vaccination clinics at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge in Wilkesboro and drive-through vaccination clinics on the third Saturday of each month at the four Wilkes middle schools.

Unless otherwise announced, first dose clinics are each Thursday and second doses are each Friday at River’s Edge. A limited number of vaccinations by appointment are still available on weekday evenings at the health department.

Details on making an appointment for one of the clinics are on the health department website at https://www.wilkescounty.net/617/Vaccine-Clinic.

Willard said her goal is to eventually hold smaller vaccination clinics at churches, food pantries and other locations across Wilkes to make it easier for people to get vaccinated. She said the health department doesn’t have enough staff and volunteers to conduct these smaller clinics and the current larger ones simultaneously.

The health department currently is administering the Pfizer vaccine for first doses because that’s what the state is providing, she said. The Pfizer vaccine, which requires extremely cold storage, can be stored in the health department’s existing freezer under new guidance.

The Moderna vaccine has been given at most health department clinics and is currently used at its second dose clinics.

About 530 full- and part-time employees of the Wilkes County Schools have registered so far for second doses of the Moderna vaccine between 1 and 6 p.m. Friday in the drive-through clinic at River’s Edge, said Westley Wood, assistant superintendent of the Wilkes schools

Wood said 641 full- and part-time school employees (about 47% of total employment) pre-registered for first doses Feb. 24-26. Wood said school employees who didn’t pre-register were also accepted.

Willard said that according to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, people possibly exposed to COVID-19 no longer have to self-quarantine if at least two weeks have passed since they had a second COVID-19 vaccination.

Across the state and in Wilkes County, COVID-19 cases continue to drop. As of Monday, 6,234 Wilkes residents had tested positive for COVID-19 and 104 COVID-19-related deaths of Wilkes residents had been reported since the pandemic began in March 2020.

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