For COVID-19 vaccination appointments at the Ocracoke Health Center, call 252-489-3622. Photo: C. Leinbach

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By Connie Leinbach

Moderna vaccines for COVID-19 have arrived at the Ocracoke Health Center.

Hyde County Health Director Luana Gibbs confirmed today that 100 vaccines were on their way to the island, and the Ocracoke Health Center said in a press release that vaccines will be available starting Wednesday.

The Ocracoke Health Center issued the following:
Advance registration and an appointment will be required to receive the COVID-10 vaccine at the Ocracoke Health Center.

This will prevent wasting the doses after they are prepared. The registration form is available on our website at https://ocracokehealthcenter.org/covid-19-vaccine-registration-request-form/ .

If you are eligible for the current phase (or prior phase), you will be allowed to register and request an appointment.

We will be providing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which requires 2 doses, separated by at least 28 days. For more information on this vaccine, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different- vaccines/Moderna.html.

We are currently giving to Phase 1B, Group 1 – that is anyone 75 years or older, unless that guidance from the state changes.

If you have been contacted by an Ocracoke Health Center employee, do not contact us again. We will call you to schedule your appointment.

All Ocracoke COVID-19 testing and vaccine appointments should use the COVID phone number: 252-489-3622. Leave a message with your name, DOB, and phone number. Someone will call you back. Multiple messages will delay callback times.

A free COVID-19 vaccine will be available to all who want it, but supplies will be limited at first.

To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal health advisory committees recommended first protecting health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

You have a spot to take your shot. See more info at https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/findyourspot

Gibbs said in an interview Tuesday that she realized last week Ocracoke needs vaccines.

“I talked to my staff last week and it was like, on the chance they don’t (have vaccines), we have got to share our vaccine, because we don’t have the manpower to go over and do it ourselves.

We’re drowning over here,” she said about the workload.

Moreover, they had to get permission from the immunization branch to transfer vaccine.

“There are so many permissions,” she said.

She confirmed that islanders in the current vaccine eligibility group—those 75 and older —have gone over to the Hyde County Health Department to get vaccines.

“And that’s OK,” she said, “We’re perfectly fine with it.”

However, all are required to register and make an appointment, which can be done in one phone call. Walk-ins aren’t available on Ocracoke or the mainland.

The piecemeal aspect of this vaccine rollout is because of the limited number of doses in general, she said.

That’s why it’s being done in phases, but some people in Hyde who would be in later phases might get the vaccine early.

That’s because of the nature of the vaccine itself. Each vial has 10 doses, she said, which once prepared have to be used within eight hours.

They are not throwing leftover vaccines out, but if the Health Department does not have enough clients in the current phase, they will go down the list and call those who would be in a later group.

“If you happen to have called in and you’re in the next group and we’ve got you, we can shove you into that appointment slot,” she said.

Starting Wednesday, the Hyde County Health Department will begin vaccinating individuals against COVID-19 on the mainland regardless of age, who are one of the following:

First responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers)
Food and agricultural workers
U.S. Postal Service workers
Manufacturing workers
Grocery store workers
Public transit workers
Education and childcare workers (teachers, support staff, day care).

After the vaccine is given, clients are required to wait in the office for 15 minutes in case they get an adverse reaction.

Since Dec. 30, Hyde County has given 250 vaccines, Gibbs said, and so far no one has had a reaction to the vaccine.

Gibbs also said her department has had time this week to count all the cases and put that information up on their Facebook page.

“We’re working cases,” she said, adding that she hopes to post and update on Wednesday.

According to the NCDHHS COVID-19 website, Hyde has 486 cases with 83 of those on Ocracoke. Deaths from the virus has risen to six.

Vaccinations are eligible for anyone in Phase 1b, Group 1, which are individuals who are 75 years of age or older living in Hyde County, both mainland and island.

To get your vaccine on the mainland, call 252-926-4399. If your call is not answered promptly, at either facility, leave a message or call back. All healthcare facilities are currently overrun.

Vaccine rollout is expected to stretch into the spring, even the summer, for lower priority groups. That means everyone will have to continue wearing masks and keeping their distance for a few more months.

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