POINT PLEASANT — Appointment-only vaccine clinics are being planned, an appointment database is being built and an appointment scheduling hotline has been established in Mason County to bring COVID-19 vaccines to those residents who want them.
“Everyone in Mason County over the age of 18 will receive a vaccine if they desire one,” stated a news release emailed to the Register on Wednesday from the Mason County Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The news release stated the following:
It is imperative that we establish a database of our residents who want one. The vaccines are coming in, in limited quantities and following with the current guidelines set by the governor, the vaccine will be distributed by age groups, starting with 80 years old and above.
When calling the COVID hotline, we are requesting the following information for our data base: Name, date of birth, are you a Mason County resident, and a good call back telephone number.
Anyone may call the hotline, but we are especially encouraging those over the age of 65 and above to call.
As the vaccine becomes available, we will call to schedule an appointment. If transportation is an issue, we can accommodate you.
As quantities are limited, week to week we do not know how many vaccines Mason County will receive. Active planning is ongoing to vastly increase our allotment of vaccines from the state.
Please bear with us, but rest assured, all citizens in Mason County who want a vaccine will receive a vaccine.
We ask our citizens to continue to practice social distancing, good hand hygiene and to always wear face covering while in public.
On Wednesday, Dennis Zimmerman, director of the Mason County Office of Emergency Services, told the Register, in the previous 24 hours, the county’s toll free COVID appointment hotline had received over 11,500 calls. Zimmerman stressed those who want an appointment for the vaccine are to call the toll free number only and not the Mason County Health Department. Though the health department is obviously, heavily involved in the upcoming distribution of the vaccines, Zimmerman said OES and Homeland Security are handling scheduling the appointments.
Zimmerman added, in regards to the appointment-only clinics, the National Guard Armory north of Point Pleasant has been secured as a location. Matt Gregg, director of homeland security, said appointments will be booked/paced 25 people an hour when clinics are held and that number could fluctuate based upon availability.
Both Zimmerman and Gregg reported a recent survey by their agencies, which was open for seven days, indicates an estimated 16,000 people in Mason County would like a vaccination. This survey, along with continued callers into the database, will allow Zimmerman to go to the state to demonstrate how many vaccines and resources are needed, based upon the latest statistics. This is another reason why the database is important, according to Zimmerman. The appointment database also allows officials to plan for vaccine availability in regards to the second dose required for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
The first appointment-only clinic is Friday but those appointments are already taken and no other appointments are available or will be made for that day. The amount of appointments booked are based upon the vaccines the county is sure it is receiving at any given time. No appointments will be made unless the vaccines are there, Zimmerman said, due to the currently limited amount that is being released. Still, Zimmerman said if 10 are received 10 appointments will be made and likewise if 1,000 are received, 1,000 appointments will be made in the future, theoretically speaking.
Though the 80 and above age group are currently the focus, followed by the 65-plus age group, Zimmerman said anyone in Mason County, who is 18 and older and would like a vaccine, can call the hotline to get in line for an appointment. (Note: Vaccine manufacturers only recommend it for those 18 and older.)
Zimmerman said his agencies, along with the health department, the Mason County Commission, and a host of private partners will be meeting on Thursday to further develop the vaccination plan amid this fluid situation.
“These events (public emergencies) start locally and end locally,” Zimmerman said about developing a local plan to meet the needs of residents. “We let the state know what we need and let them help.”
That toll free vaccine hotline number is 681-441-4311. Call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. If no one answers, leave a message and someone will call back when they can.
Area code 681 is a new area code for West Virginia calls. Your call is local and will be answered by a local person at the Mason County EMS/911/Emergency Services building in Point Pleasant.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.