Local health officials urge residents to pre-register for vaccinations

TAYLOR COUNTY—During the Friday morning COVID-19 update call, local health officials reported that vaccination efforts have reached a new level here in the county.

According to Grafton-Taylor County Health Department Threat Preparedness Coordinator Shawn Thorn the county is currently nearing the 50 percent mark toward herd immunity.

“We have vaccinated approximately 28 percent of the population in Taylor County,” he shared. “And our vaccination efforts are continuing. However, we are nearing a point that we do not have enough names registered in the state’s Everbridge system to meet the threshold for us to obtain herd immunity at this time.”

Thorn urged and encouraged residents to log onto the system and register, regardless of their age.

“We do need to get as many people registered as possible,” he expressed. “While we would like everyone who wants to be vaccinated to get signed up, we really want to implore those residents between the ages of 18-35 to do so.”

He shared that Thursday’s clinic, held at the Taylor County Senior Citizens Center, was one of the busiest days they have seen thus far.

“We were able to work through our list of 65 and older residents through Everbridge, so we did a call out for direct scheduling,” Thorn noted. “Luckily, Governor [Jim] Justice did reduce the age to residents 50 and older and included some high-risk medical conditions.”

The conditions set forth by Governor Justice were very specific and include those residents with down syndrome; sickle cell anemia; cystic fibrosis; intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caretakers; caretakers of those with congenital or acquired disease; organ or bone marrow transplant recipients; and those residents who are obese with a BMI greater than 35 or women who are pregnant.

He said that the department has begun scheduling next week’s appointments with those new criteria in place.

Preston Taylor Community Health Centers, Inc.’s Dr. Peter Wentzel noted that while testing at that location has seemed to decrease, they were working on trying to filter patients wanting vaccinations to the clinics held at the senior center.

“More people seem to be interested in receiving the vaccine, which is a great sign,” he disclosed. “At this time, we are directing patients to sign up and take part through the community clinic. Here in Taylor County, we have seen a great community effort through the partnership, and that is really great!”

Dr. David Bender, County Health Officer, reported that Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) Bill Crouch had recently said that he believed that supply of the vaccinations would exceed demand within the next 30 days.

“I think for those folks who are under 50 or don’t qualify at present will have a long wait to receive their vaccines,” he noted.

However, Thorn revealed that the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department has plans and contingency plans for those initial ideas in place so they would never have to worry about wasting dosages of the vaccinations.

Thorn also reported that while the county’s infection rate has dropped to an 11.98 percent and the percent positivity was in a green designation, the county recorded a new positive case on Wednesday, bringing the county to a total of 14 active cases.

Those wishing to pre-register through the Everbridge system, which takes only moments to do, are asked to visit vaccinate.wv.gov. For those who are less tech savvy, a call to 1-833-734-0965, the state’s COVID-19 Vaccine Info Line, will get residents on the path to inoculation.