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First responders first priority in Jessamine for new vaccine

First responders are expected to be the first in Jessamine County to receive the new Randy Gooch, the county’s public health director, said last Thursday.

As with the Pfizer vaccine, which arrived in Kentucky Dec. 13 and was being administered to hospital employees two days later, Gooch expects a similar fast track for the Moderna vaccine, which got the green light from the Food and Drug Administration last Friday.

“We’re expecting our first shipment at least by the last week of December, and as early as maybe the middle of next week,” Gooch said.

“They’re wanting us to be the first in line to provide the vaccine to the first responders in our community, or at least organizing and coordinating that,” he said.

First responders are those who work in emergency services, such as police, firefighters, ambulance service emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Public health personnel, that is, Gooch’s staff, would also be part of that first group.

As with the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses to be effective, so the shots will have to be scheduled at least 28 days apart. The first shot is estimated to provide about 50 percent immunity, and the second gets the person to 95 percent. No one knows how long the immunization for the SARS-CoV-2 is effective, but many scientists believe it will have to be an annual shot, like the one for the most common kinds of flu.

Although one can’t get the disease COVID-19 from the virus, some people have had responses to the shots, so the first responders will have to be monitored.

The most commonly reported side effects, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“They will be required to wait at least 15 minutes so they can be observed and make sure there’s no adverse reaction,” Gooch said.

The Jessamine County Health Department’s medical director, Dr. Steve Davis, will be on hand most of the time, as will other personnel, to monitor, Gooch said.

“We’ll try to move them through as quickly as we possibly can. It won’t be as quick as the testing,” he said.

“We’re going to be required to put every one of these shots into the Kentucky immunization registry, which in turn will alert us to when those second shots are due,” Gooch mentioned.

Gooch said some people may be reluctant to take the vaccine, so the Health Department’s “messaging” is about “the efficacy and safety” of the processes for developing, manufacturing and distributing the vaccines. When health officials say the vaccine has been through “clinical trials,” that doesn’t mean it has been tried on only a few.

“As many as 40,000 people, I think, have been part of the trials,” he said.

Asked when either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine might be available to the general public, Gooch said that is “the million-dollar question.”

“Some of our more youthful populations, maybe, will be looking at getting the vaccinations in either March or April,” he said.

The plan now is to vaccinate those who are most vulnerable first. The Pfizer vaccine in Kentucky first went to 11 regional hospitals for nurses, doctors and other front-line medical workers who were likely to come in contact with patients who have the virus. The rest is going to nursing homes, veterans homes and assisted living facilities through a partnership with CVS and Walgreens.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at an extreme sub-zero temperature and used quickly, the Moderna vaccine can last up to 30 days under normal refrigeration, Gooch said.

“It gives us the opportunity to be able to reach more people,” he said.

About Randy Patrick

Randy Patrick is a reporter for Bluegrass Newsmedia, which includes The Jessamine Journal. He may be reached at 859-759-0015 or by email at randy.patrick@bluegrassnewsmedia.com.

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