The Wilkes Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic was among the first public clinics in the state offering the vaccine.

This reflected Wilkes Health Director Rachel Willard’s worthy goal of getting the vaccine into as many arms as possible as soon as possible, while following the state’s prioritized plan for vaccinating those at most risk first.

The drive-through clinic averaged around 40 vaccinations each day Dec. 28-30. Everything changed when Gov. Roy Cooper announced revisions to the prioritized plan that included making people 75 and older regardless of health status eligible to receive the vaccine starting Dec. 31.

The health department has been inundated with thousands of people in this demographic wanting the vaccine since then, while still only getting 200-300 doses of the Moderna vaccine per week. The resulting inability to meet demand left many people frustrated.

The drive-through clinic was moved from the health department parking lot to the old airport runway adjacent to Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge this week. Other changes are being considered, but the bottom line is that much more COVID-19 vaccine is needed.

Wilkes Medical Center has received about as much of the Moderna vaccine as the health department, as well as 600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center by late last week. There is talk about improving coordination between the hospital and health department for use of the vaccine.

Skilled and unskilled nursing homes in Wilkes are receiving Moderna vaccine through Walgreen’s for vaccinating their residents and staff.

The rapid rise in COVID-19 deaths of Wilkes residents in the last 2 1/2 months adds urgency to the need for larger shipments of vaccine for public clinics here

Nine of the Wilkes deaths were reported in the first 10 days of 2021. Nearly half of 72 officially identified COVID-19 deaths of Wilkes residents in 2020 were reported in the last two months of the year — 13 in November and 21 in December.

Although these deaths included people in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, the majority were 75 and older. Most of the deaths in late 2020 and this year weren’t associated with nursing homes.

The push for getting more COVID-19 vaccine delivered here is a race against a rapidly increasing death death.

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