Fayette County health officer talks vaccine distribution strategy

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Health officials are eyeing the second week of December for vaccine distribution to begin in the first phase which will be for first responders and healthcare workers. 

Fayette County Health Officer Dr. Anita Stewart is calling it a light at the end of a “very dark” tunnel.

She says the three contenders right now for the COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed from state to state are the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna product and then the AstraZeneca product as well, with Pfizer leading the way as it enters the application phase for emergency distribution. 

“These vaccines are looking very promising in regards to the data and the efficacy, so again they’re only as good though as the uptake in our community, so I’m hopeful that our healthcare teams can be leaders in starting that vaccination process and that can trickle down to community members and leaders otherwise,” Dr. Stewart said. 

She says it will be a phase approach where each phase will bring in a new group of people to get their vaccine before it is completely open to the public. Medical personnel and those on the frontlines will go first. 

“They’ll be signed up through a portal through their employers, so they’ll have to have those types of credentials to get the vaccine,” Dr. Stewart said. “As the phases move along and we get to the highest risk patients, those greater than 65, those with high risk medical conditions, those would be through their healthcare provider and most healthcare providers in this community have signed up to give that vaccine.” 

Although she says there is excitement in the air to see this light at the end of the tunnel, she says it will take patience and cooperation. 

“As soon as the vaccine’s in your arm, it doesn’t mean you can get rid of the mask,” she said. “It will take the whole community coming on board to get the vaccination and to continue using behavioral measures until we reach enough of a level to where we have what we call herd immunity which means that enough of the population is vaccinated to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.” 

The health department plans to set up sites throughout the county for distribution and plans to work alongside healthcare partners in the various phases.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.