County preparing for COVID-19 vaccine

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

Locally, officials are working to be prepared for future clinics to administer the COVID-19 vaccination.

Dubois County Health Department Administrative Director Shawn Werner told the Dubois County Commissioners Monday that the vaccine will likely be available to the general population by the middle of next year, with those in the high-risk category receiving it earlier. The health department is working now to make sure it is ready for when that time comes to receive and dispense the vaccine.

Indiana is using a phased approach in dispensing the vaccine.

The first group will be health care workers working closely with and caring for those who have the virus. The vaccine is expected to be available to that group in the next two weeks to a month, Werner said.

Anyone who provides care to patients or is exposed to infectious materials will be the first in the state to be offered the vaccine, though it will not be required, Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, said Friday. That includes long-term care facility staff and frontline health care workers in hospitals, such as those in COVID-19 units, intensive care and emergency departments.

“As soon as we have [the] vaccine,” Weaver said, “they'll be invited."

Other health care workers, like first responders and public health workers would be next in line. All health care personnel working in Indiana would be eligible to get vaccinated at one of 50 hospitals statewide.

“Anybody across the state of Indiana who works in health care and has potential exposure to COVID-19 patients ... or infectious materials ... will all be invited to get the vaccine in the next couple of weeks,” Weaver said. “We believe that we will have enough vaccine available in the state of Indiana by the end of December to vaccinate any health care personnel who would like to get the vaccine.”

People in the high-risk category, such as people 65 years or older and those with underlying health conditions, would be next in line for the vaccine. Werner said the indication is that the vaccine would be available to the general public in the summer, possibly June or July.

“That will leave us just a few of months to get it done before flu season,” he told the commissioners.

He is currently preparing for the upcoming job of dispensing the vaccine. Work to install an awning and concrete drive outside the health department is in process. The area will be used for future drive-up clinics. Werner has said that having those would allow people to stay in their vehicles and lessen the amount of people they would come in contact with. The department also has a truck that it can use for storage and to move supplies to where they are needed.

A new full-time clerk will start with the health department on Dec. 28. But Werner believes he will need more help next year, especially when it’s time to offer and administer the vaccine. With that, the commissioners consented to having an additional two part-time COVID clerks at the department. Werner must talk to the Dubois County Council about funding those part-time positions. Since the 2021 budget is already done, the council would not be able to approve funding until next year. But Werner plans to talk to council members at their meeting on Monday.




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