SALYERSVILLE – Tuesday was a big day for Magoffin County, as the health department received and started distributing its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines.
To date, 732 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Magoffin County (20 since last press day, compared to 39 the previous week and 70 the week before that), with 24 of the cases still active (in isolation), 702 recovered, three hospitalized and seven deaths.
The Magoffin County Health Department received 200 of the Moderna vaccines on December 22, after expecting only 40, and started distributing them to frontline medical workers and first responders, including seven people from Frontier Medical, five from Hope Medical, the health department staff, and numerous first responders.
Felicia Estep, with the Magoffin County Health Department, told Mortimer Media Group they received the shipment of vaccines at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, which come frozen. The vaccines are kept in the freezer and health department staff are pulling out the doses and thawing them as needed, with the goal of inoculating 20 people the first day, going by the state’s guidance on identifying the first tier of those who need it most.
“Right now, it’s on a push system, which means we don’t request it,” Estep explained. “Every two weeks they’re going to send us vaccines as scheduled, pushing out 200 doses today and in two weeks we should get 200 more.”
She also explained that they received the Moderna vaccine, which is in two doses, with the second dose to be administered in 28 days.
Magoffin County Public Health Director James “Pete” Shepherd, after receiving his first dose of the vaccine, told Mortimer Media Group, “It’s a big day for Magoffin County and for our first responders that got the first vaccines. We’ve been fighting this thing and I’m hoping this will put us ahead of the game a little bit.”
Shepherd said he hopes everyone gets the vaccine.
“I got the vaccine and I was proud to do it,” Shepherd said. It’s very important everyone does become vaccinated and there’s a lot of naysayers out there. We’ve had that for the whole nine months we’ve been fighting this pandemic, but it’s important for you to get the vaccine.”
Shepherd noted that working together to wear masks, social distance and now vaccinate is the only way to beat the virus and get back to some sort of normalcy, emphasizing the health department will provide vaccinations to everyone who wants it, going by the state’s tier system.
The next tier will include people over the age of 70 that are medically compromised, which he said he hopes to start vaccinating next week, and then after that, everyone over 70 years old.
“The Magoffin County Health Department is dedicated,” Shepherd said. “These ladies have dedicated themselves to getting us out of this pandemic and they’re doing a great job. I’m proud of the health department for the way they’ve worked.”
For people concerned about the safety of the vaccine, Estep urged everyone to look at creditable sources for research on the vaccine.
“Do your research,” Estep said. Get it from creditable resources, not just Facebook for research, and ask medical professionals. Ask the people who see this daily – who take care of these people.”
Kelly Howard, with Frontier Medical, was one of the first local healthcare workers to receive the vaccine, telling Mortimer Media Group, “This is the best Christmas present I could have gotten. I wanted it and I couldn’t wait to get it. I’m very pro vaccine and I like vaccines. This has been studied safe by the FDA, multiple scientists, and different countries, even, now at this point. I just can’t think of a better day that I’ve had in a month – or really since the pandemic began – than today with this vaccine.”
Howard explained that a vaccine is a dead virus used to trick immune systems into forming immunities.
“This pandemic is so widespread,” Howard said. “It’s in every county. It’s in every city. There’s hardly any home that haven’t been touched by it somehow at this point, and you can either take your chances of getting the live virus and possibly ending up on a ventilator or in a hospital or losing your life, versus taking a recommended, safe vaccine that has a dead virus. For me, the choice was easy. Some people won’t agree with that and that’s their prerogative, but it’s a good vaccine and you should take it.”
Howard noted that she sees how the virus affects people’s health, as well as their families, work, and more.
“Let’s say I get COVID,” Howard explained. “I’m sick for two weeks. I’ve got a fever. I’m throwing up and have diarrhea. I’m coughing and I can’t breathe. I have to go home and I’m in the house with my family, who I don’t want to give it to, so I’m quarantined to one room. Who’s taking care of me? It’s just such a risky virus. It affects your family. It affects your work. You have to get these tests and get re-screened, and even afterward, I’ve seen patients here with cardiac complications.
People telling me still three months out, saying, ‘my chest still doesn’t feel right.’ Because it’s such a new virus, it’s so unknown, but the vaccine is the key.”
Howard also explained that, while people with preexisting conditions are expected to end up hospitalized from the virus, they’re seeing people completely healthy end up on the ventilator with the virus.
“It’s like the old saying, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’” Howard said. “That’s the truest saying right now.”
At press time, Magoffin County is classified in the orange category, at approximately 15 to 16% positivity rate, which is the first time in months it’s broken below the 25% mark that kept it in the red category.
Nursing homes also were expected to receive distributions of the vaccine, which are to be administered by Walgreens, though the Independent, nor the local health department, has received any information regarding whether the Salyersville Nursing Home has started to administer vaccines to their employees and residents.