By Libby Stanford, The Summit Daily News
As other counties across the state struggle to roll out vaccination programs, Summit County is receiving praise for its approach to distribution.
At a Summit County Board of Health meeting Tuesday, Jan. 5, officials shared how the county’s drive-thru method for distributing the vaccine has received attention across the state and nationally.
The reason Summit County’s distribution has gone so well is because of the close partnership between the county’s public health and emergency management offices, officials said.
“When we hear from other counties that are struggling … we’re finding that a lot of our public health partners aren’t working as closely with their (emergency management office),” Assistant County Manager Sarah Vaine said. “That has been a game-changer for the community.”
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Public Health Director Amy Wineland said the county received 800 doses of the Moderna vaccine that will be distributed through its drive-thru event Thursday, Jan. 7, as well as through Safeway and City Market pharmacies.
Even with the county’s ability to quickly distribute vaccines, it’s not easy to get an appointment. All of the appointments for the week, which opened at 4 p.m. Tuesday, were booked by 4:45 p.m.
“There’s no promise that everyone over the age of 70 is able to get a vaccine right now,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. “We’re giving them out as soon as we get them.”
Officials are hoping that the use of the county’s emergency notification SC Alert system will help provide better communication about vaccination appointments.
“I think the SC Alert is a big step forward,” Lawrence said. “We’re trying to make this equitable across the board, and that’s a good way to do it.”
People can sign up for alerts by visiting SCAlert.org.
This week, the county also started working with the Summit Community Care Clinic to distribute vaccines to those in its patient population who qualify. Wineland added that High Country Health Care and other pharmacies at Walmart, Target and Walgreens are all working on plans to have the vaccine available.
“We really want to have it as widespread as possible when we are able to get more and more doses on hand,” Wineland said. “We know the further we go down on that prioritization group layout, the groups are going to get bigger and bigger, so we need to make sure that we have these partners on hand to get the vaccine and start vaccinating.”
Each clinic is allocated a certain number of doses of vaccines based on their capacity to vaccinate. The rest of the doses go to public health to be used at its drive-thru clinic, Wineland said.
If the county is able to vaccinate all of its first responders, health care workers and people 70 and older faster than the rest of the state, the county’s allocation of vaccines could be paused, Wineland said.
“The governor is really committed to having all counties in the state get through those first three tiers of prioritization groups,” she said. “So it’s possible, if we do get all of those, we might be put on hold for a little bit.”
In a meeting with the state, officials heard that people in the next phase — which includes essential workers — won’t be able to be vaccinated until the end of February.
“That is what it’s looking like right now, but of course everything is changing all the time,” Wineland said. “As soon as we know more, we’ll share it.”