Long lines are a common site at the Health Department’s COVID-19 vaccination site at the former Greene Valley Developmental Center.
What has also been common is that a number of people have not shown up at their appointment time for their first inoculation.
During Tuesday’s Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, Mayor W.T. Daniels commented that he had been told by health officials that about 40% of people who have made appointments to get vaccinated at the Greene Valley site do not show up.
Greene County is not alone in experiencing a fair number of ‘no shows,’ according to officials with the Northeast Regional Health Office.
“It is true that during our first dose vaccination clinics we tend to have a fair number of no-shows, and this is occurring in every county,” said Dr. David Kirschke, medical director for the Northeast Regional Health Office.
However, no vaccines are wasted when this occurs, Kirschke said, as other people who have sought appointments are called to come to the site or that vaccine is carried over until the next day.
One of the reasons for the no shows has been people making appointments in multiple counties and not canceling them after receiving a vaccine at one, according to officials. It is hoped a new state registration system will help reduce those incidents.
According to the state, 13,746 vaccinations have been administered in Greene County through Wednesday.
An additional death due to COVID-19 in Greene County and six new local virus cases were also reported in Wednesday’s update from the Tennessee Department of Health.
The county has 133 people with active cases of COVID-19. Since last March, 7,203 Greene Countians have contracted the virus. During the pandemic, 142 people in the county have died from COVID-19 and 167 people have required hospital treatment for the illness.
On Wednesday, Ballad Health reported that it had 98 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals with three admitted with symptoms who were awaiting test results.
‘WAY BACK TO NORMAL’
Greene County Mayor Kevin Morrison has commended all those public agencies who are involved in the vaccination site at Greene Valley as well as volunteers and those who have shown their support through donations of food or warm apparel.
“It is most important that we get the vaccines distributed that we have been given,” he said. “If we want to get back to normal life, we need people to get vaccinated. The way to get back to normal is the vaccine.”
During Tuesday’s Greene County Commission meeting, Morrison praised the efforts of those who are now involved in the process of administering hundreds of vaccines almost daily at the site: members of the Greene County Health Department, the Northeast Regional Health Office, the Greene County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Service, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Tusculum Police Department and the security and maintenance staff at Greene Valley.
These people and volunteers at Greene Valley have worked long hours daily in often cold or rain to get people vaccinated, Morrison said, and they have been supported by numerous community members and businesses who have brought meals and snacks to the workers.
Local governmental officials have worked hard to make sure that Greene County has a good supply of vaccines after it appeared that it was not being provided in the early days of the distribution, he continued.
“We want to make sure that we get our fair share of vaccines to be able to get them into arms of those who want it,” Morrison said.
Those eligible for vaccinations currently in Greene County are individuals 70 years of age and over, frontline health care professionals at hospitals, healthcare staff in offices or other settings, pharmacists, funeral and mortuary workers and K-12 education and childcare providers. The inoculations are to be administered in phases by risk group and age group, according to the state’s vaccination distribution plan.
The state announced Tuesday that vaccination eligibility is expanding to individuals 65-69, who can begin registering Monday for appointments.
The incidents of no-shows for vaccination appointments partly have arisen due to the state’s previous system for registering for the vaccine that allowed individuals to register in more than one county and did not allow them to cancel appointments once they received a vaccination, Kirschke said.
The Tennessee Department of Health announced Tuesday that it has launched a new online scheduling tool that allows users to book their appointment for COVID-19 vaccination at participating health department sites when they are eligible to do so.
The new system can be accessed at covid19.tn.gov. Individuals should select their county to schedule an appointment. Users will enter their demographic information and will then be able to choose a date and time for their vaccination appointment.
With this new system, Kirschke said, the issues with the previous system will be resolved and the number of no-shows should go down.
In a recent media briefing, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey asked that individuals not make appointments for vaccines outside their home county. She explained that the state is distributing vaccines based on population and crossing county lines can keep some people from having access in their home communities.
Making reservations at a Health Department site and then receiving a vaccination at another type of site may also be occurring, Morrison said. In addition to local health departments, vaccines are now available at certain pharmacies, through Veterans Affairs and at the Bristol Motor Speedway at a site operated by the Sullivan County Health Department.
In addition to the health department sites, those eligible to receive a vaccine have a growing number of options.
Last month, the state announced 100 community vaccination sites across the state to increase accessibility, particularly in rural areas. Four independent pharmacies are among those sites locally — Atchley’s Pharmacy, Corley’s Pharmacy, Greene County Drug Store and Corley’s Pharmacy Solutions.
Earlier this month, the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program began, in which the federal government provides vaccinations directly to pharmacies. In Tennessee, Walmart was selected as the state’s sole preferred pharmacy partner for the program and began providing vaccines in participating stores on Feb. 12.
However, the Greeneville Walmart was not included in the federal program, and state officials have indicated that Walmart stores not in the federal program will be added to the community vaccination sites to receive doses from the state allocation.
Vaccines are also being administered to veterans at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Johnson City.