COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in McMinn County.

McMinn County Mayor John Gentry gave an update on local COVID-19 vaccine distribution at last week’s McMinn County Commission meeting. He described it as a “fluid situation.”

On Monday, Dec. 21, the first vaccinations took place at the McMinn County Health Department. Ten McMinn County first responders were the first to go through the process.

The vaccine will be administered in phases. The first phase includes high priority health care workers, first responders who deal directly with the public, staff at mass testing and long-term care facilities, and home health care staff. Hospitals receive the Pfizer vaccine and county health departments are being sent the Moderna vaccine.

“They will be prioritized based upon their health conditions,” explained Gentry. “Any of those who are at higher risk, they will be getting the vaccine first.”

The second phase includes other health care workers, including primary care physicians and staff, dentists, and pharmacists.

The next phase will include adults with two or more high-risk conditions, which include cancer patients, those suffering from renal failure, diabetics, and those who have received an organ transplant.

The following phase includes teachers, moderate-risk individuals, and healthy people over the age of 65. Next to receive the vaccine will be young adults, children and employees who have high public exposure such as restaurant workers.

The final phase will be for “everyone else,” according to Gentry.

“The million dollar question is how much time between phases, and that’s what they do not know,” he added. “A lot of it depends on how many in each phase are willing to take the vaccine.”

Once a particular phase appears to have been completed to all willing participants, the process will likely move to the next phase.

“There’s no playbook for this at this point,” said Gentry. “There’s some challenges with the storage. Once a vile is opened, it has to be used within six hours. So, they’ve got to have everybody lined up; they can’t waste any.”

Gentry suggested anyone with more questions should take advantage of the website

“They have the Tennessee vaccination plan on that website,” he said.

Gentry praised the efforts of the McMinn County Health Department staff, as well as members of the National Guard who have assisted in testing efforts in the county.

Email: andy.brusseau

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