GREENBRIER COUNTY, WV (WOAY)- The West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine’s (WVSOM) Center for Rural and Community Health (CRCH) has partnered with the Greenbrier County Health Department in the development of a hotline and data management system to accept calls from Greenbrier County residents who would like to add themselves or a family member to a waitlist to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The hotline, which can be reached at 304-664-4147, went live at 9 a.m. Tuesday. By 12:30 p.m., more than 700 people had called, according to Julian Levine, WVSOM CRCH’s director of community engagement.
AmeriCorps members assigned to work with the CRCH are monitoring the hotline from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with backup provided by CRCH staff. Residents who call outside those hours, or those who receive a voicemail recording, are asked to leave the requested information so that their call can be returned. The list of callers will be provided to the Greenbrier County Health Department for scheduling at a later time.
CRCH staff also are assisting the health department by matching people already on the waiting list with available appointments.
Bridgett Morrison, D.O., the department’s health officer, explained that the department’s own phone lines are currently unable to handle a high volume of calls. She said she appreciates the school’s assistance in creating and manning the hotline.
“We’ve been trying to upgrade our lines, but so far we haven’t been able to,” Morrison said. “WVSOM graciously offered to establish a hotline to get more people on the list in order to get them vaccinated.”
James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, said he is honored that the school is able to play a role in the local distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The health department is doing a great job of getting the vaccine into people’s arms, but the response has been overwhelming,” Nemitz said. “Our CRCH staff are ready to assist with registering and scheduling those in our communities who want to be vaccinated. By working together through strong community partnerships, we will be successful in working toward an end to this pandemic.”
The health department is no longer accepting email requests for vaccine registration and is asking those who wish to register to use the hotline instead of calling the department directly. Greenbrier County residents who were added to the waitlist through a phone call or email will be transferred to the current waitlist.
West Virginia Gov. Justice has mandated that vaccines will be distributed based on age.
Those who have already received the first dose of the vaccine through the Greenbrier County Health Department or another source should not call the hotline.
Craig Boisvert, D.O., WVSOM’s vice president for academic affairs and dean, emphasized the importance of widespread vaccination, saying that in order for the pandemic to end, about 70 percent of the U.S. population will need to have been vaccinated or have had the disease.
“The number of COVID-19 cases to date is around 6 percent of West Virginia’s population, so unless people vaccinate, the pandemic is going to go on for a long time,” Boisvert said. “It appears that having had the disease does not provide long-lasting immunity, so the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that someone could get it again.”
Boisvert added that the two vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been shown to be safe and effective.
“Both are 94-95 percent effective, and should you be one of those 5-6 percent that acquire the disease once you have been vaccinated, it will reduce the severity of the disease,” he said.