Published on December 20, 2020

First COVID-19 Vaccinations Given in Area

Originally published in the Rocky Mount Telegram
By: Amelia Harper, Staff Writer for the Rocky Mount Telegramvaccine

The good news is that the COVID-19 vaccine has arrived at Nash UNC Health Care; the bad news is that it came too late for the 249 Twin Counties residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since Wednesday.

Tonygia Lynch, a nursing assistant in the Nash UNC Health Care Emergency Department, was the first person in the Twin Counties to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

When asked Thursday why she chose to get the shot, Tonygia Lynch said that she wanted to set an example for others in the community.

“Because I am a Black female with underlying health issues, I want the community to know how important it is to take the shot,” she said. “It’s important for the community to see me get the shot. There is a possibility that you could die if you got COVID. I have nine grandbabies that I want to see grow up. Why take the risk of dying when you can live since you have something that could help you?”

The vaccine delivered to Nash UNC Health Care is part of a batch of Pfizer vaccines that are being distributed to hospitals across the state. Because the initial supply is low, the vaccines are not yet available to the public at large. Local health officials say it likely will be months before the vaccine is widely available.

The hospital is just beginning Phase 1A of its vaccine distribution plan. In this phase, the vaccine will be given to front-line workers at the hospital who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19. They will be following state Department of Health and Human Services guidelines for statewide vaccine distribution, which are informed by CDC recommendations, said Dorsey Tobias, executive director for marketing, communications and strategy for Nash UNC Health Care.

“Staff in Phase 1A are those in units with known COVID patients or high risk of unknown COVID patients as well as involvement with higher-risk exposures. Every person who physically works in these locations will have the same opportunity to schedule a vaccine,” she said. “We will not make distinctions between job types such as nursing, environmental services staff or medical providers.”

The vaccine will not be mandatory and only will be administered during the designated phase to the workers who choose to receive it, Tobias said.

Getting the vaccine does not mean these workers can doff their personal protection equipment.

“We will continue to use safety precautions — masks, hand hygiene, eye protection, visitor restrictions — to protect our patients, visitors and staff while inside our facilities,” Tobias said.

Nash UNC Health Care will not be administering the vaccine to the public at this time. More information about distribution of the vaccine through the health department will be provided later.

Nash County Health Director William Hill said the vaccine that is expected to arrive at the health department in the next week or so will not be the same vaccine as the one delivered to the hospital. The hospital is getting the Pfizer vaccine, which requires super cold storage, while the health department will be receiving the Moderna vaccine, which does not.

“The only noticeable difference between the two vaccines will be the space between the delivery of the first and second dose of the two products — with a 21-day space for Pfizer and 28 days for Moderna,” Hill said. “Both have been tested for safety and efficacy and both rank very high in both areas.”

Dr. Kenneth Moore, a physician in the emergency department at Nash UNC, was one of the first doctors to be vaccinated at Nash UNC. Moore said he had done the research and was ready to get the vaccine.

“I had done a lot of background research scientifically — not research from the press — and I decided that this is the right thing to do at the right time,” Moore said. “I’m an ER doctor. I’m on the front lines. I’m in an at-risk population, my age and race and co-morbid condition puts me at risk, and I also want to ensure my family’s safety.”

While vaccines are an important tool in fighting COVID-19, Tobias said people need to keep using other tools as well.

“We as a community still need to follow all of the CDC’s guidance on preventing the spread of the virus,” Tobias said. “This means it’s still critically important to adhere to the following safety measures: Wear a mask; stay six feet apart from others whenever possible; wash your hands regularly; and stay home if you’re sick.”

These guidelines especially are needed in the midst of the current surge in cases in the Twin Counties.

The Nash County Health Department reported 162 new positive cases since Wednesday, bringing the cumulative total of positives in the county to 5,595. Of that number, 3,440 people are considered recovered and 24 are hospitalized.

Another 2,014 Nash County residents currently are isolated with active cases of COVID-19.

“That’s a lot of cases. It’s not slowing down,” Hill said Friday.

The Edgecombe County Health Department reported 87 new cases since Wednesday for a cumulative total of 2,977. Of that number, 2,696 people are considered recovered and 195 have active cases of COVID-19.

So far, 203 Twin Counties residents have died from COVID-related causes. Nash County has reported 117 deaths while Edgecombe County has reported 86 deaths.