Whitley County community leaders were among the 41 individuals who received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19 Tuesday at the Whitley County Health Department.
The health department received its first shipment of the Moderna vaccine on Monday. Whitley County Health Department Public Health Director Marcy Rein said the agency has partnered with different community agencies to help coordinate the vaccinations of other healthcare workers.
Beginning at roughly 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, the health department began administering the vaccines to a combination of first responders and health care providers in the community.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison and Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. both received their first doses Tuesday.
Rein said she chose to include the judge executive and mayor in the first day of vaccinations because they are community leaders and community members respect their opinion.
“I am hopeful that by them being willing to share that they got vaccinated and being able to now talk about their experience will help convince other community members who might be reluctant to get the vaccine, to consider it as an option for themselves going forward,” said Rein.
“I did it to try to encourage others,” said White. “I am hoping that by my participation and by encouraging others participation, I am protecting them [his family members] and helping to protect the general health of our community.”
Harrison was in agreement that the vaccine is an important step in protecting the community.
“My thought when they started talking about the vaccine, I knew right off hand, I didn’t have any fears about taking the vaccine,” said Harrison. “I think it is a medical miracle that we have one this quickly.”
Despite common fears, such as a fear of needles, the two leaders said there was nothing to fear in receiving the vaccine.
“I am scared to death of needles. I am a childhood cancer survivor. I spent the first decade of my life getting stuck repeatedly, and by the time I got to ten years old I was ready to fight anytime a needle came towards me. And that is in all seriousness and in all honesty,” said White. “But, my wife’s description of this shot is the best description I’ve heard, ‘easiest shot I have ever taken.’ I didn’t even hardly feel it.”
After receiving the vaccines, both gentlemen jokingly said they feared pulling off the band aids more than the vaccinations when it came to the pain.
White also addressed other fears that people may have by saying, “I think, very much, the risks of the disease, the risks of continuing what we are doing with these lockdowns and things like that, are far greater than the risks of taking this vaccine.”
Harrison echoed White’s sentiments saying that, “People should not be afraid to take this vaccine.”
Rein said that of the 41 individuals who received the vaccine today, including herself and other members of the health department staff, she is not aware of anyone who has had a negative reaction.
After receiving the vaccine, individuals are asked to stay at the health department for about 15 minutes so that the staff can monitor them for any negative reactions.
Those individuals who received the vaccine Tuesday are expected to receive their booster shots at the end of January.
The health department is following the recommendations handed down by the state and federal government which organizes the dissemination of vaccines by different groups of individuals.
The first group consists of individuals who are healthcare workers or long-term care facility residents.
The second group consists of the remainder of the frontline workers and individuals age 70 or older, said Rein.
The third group will be individuals who are considered essential workers or individuals under the age of 70 with high-risk medical conditions.
The health department is not responsible for vaccinating all of the different groups, such as long-term care facilities, but it is partnering with other agencies to ensure it is disseminated to the groups when it is appropriate.
Rein said there is no exact timeline for how quickly different groups are able to receive the vaccine, but the health department has been instructed to not withhold the vaccines as booster shots have been promised to arrive as a separate shipment.