School nurses receiving the vaccine
Courtesy of Tallassee City Schools
COVID vaccines being administered
By Michael Butler
Hundreds in Tallassee have received their first COVID vaccine injections. Many more are on waiting lists to do the same.
Covington Healthcare and Community Hospital have been administering the vaccine locally. Nurse practitioner Sarah Covington has been in overdrive.
"COVID has kept us busier than we ever wanted to be," Covington said. "It's like a flu season that won't quit and keeps getting uglier and uglier."
Covington has been seeing COVID patients since last spring.
"We made the decision that we would see uninsured patients at no cost if they have COVID symptoms to be treated. If they go back to work with symptoms, they spread the illness and may not know whose life they endanger or potentially take."
Tallassee's Community Hospital has also been inundated. Numbers are peaking according to RN Stacey McClain.
"As of Jan. 21, there are 342,982 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state with 5,279 deaths," she noted. "Elmore County has 8,056 confirmed cases with 104 deaths."
The Alabama Department of Public Health's Dr. Karen Landers is in her 39th year with state agency.
"Overall our numbers remain high," Landers stated. "We still have a very long season ahead of us until we have widespread vaccine coverage which will be spring or summer."
Like Landers, Covington and McClain are promoting the vaccine.
"The only way any of us can go back to anyting that resembles normalcy is to look at this vaccine and take it," said Covington. "The research is showing that all of them are good vaccines."
"We encourage everyone who can be vaccinated to please do so. We ask the community to please be patient as the demand for the vaccine is high."
"Right now we do not have enough vacccines to vaccinate as widely as we want to in the state of Alabama," Landers added. "There have to be two doses. The effectiveness as a two-dose series is probably about 90 plus percent."
Healthcare workers like Landers, Covington and McClain are among the first in line to receive the vaccine. Community Hospital also worked with Tallassee City Schools in offering vaccinations for staff and faculty members.
"All TCS staff were given the opportunity for the first vaccination," Tallassee City Schools superintendent Dr. Brock Nolin said. "Those that opted for the vaccination were given the injection Jan. 20 in a clinic held by Community Hospital staff.
"Having the vaccination is imperative for our staff. As you may have heard, read, or even experienced, the virus is much worse in the older population in many cases. I've seen that in-person with some of our more seasoned staff having difficulty while the younger population recovers more quickly. While that sounds predictable, this virus has proven over and over that it is anything but predictable."
Nolin expressed his gratitude to the hospital.
"Tallassee City Schools would like to send a special thank you to Beth Nelson, Tallassee City Schools Lead Nurse, and the staff of Community Hospital. Having our staff protected is vitally important in facilitating our student’s movement forward in their educational journey. How? No staff… no school. No school… no learning. One begets the other.
"Hopefully, the vaccination will be readily available to all soon and all population segments will enjoy some peace-of-mind and protection."
McClain explained further about the priority system for vaccinations.
"We are currently finishing phase 1a and are moving into phase 1b which include (according to the state's definition); frontline essential workers, persons 75 and older, first responders, and people who live or work in congregate settings such as group homes. We are moving through the phases as outlined in the state's plan when individuals in the higher-risk categories have been given the opportunity to be vaccinated."
Landers said that over 223,000 doses have been given statewide. As of last week, about 3.4 percent of the population nationally had received the vaccine. The numbers in Alabama were only 1.8 percent.
"I know we've received a lot of criticism on the national level," Landers said. "Currently we have not lost a dose in the state of Alabama. Every vial that has been on file has been used. Until we have an additional product approved, we will continue to have to vaccinate in groups and phases."
Why are some who fit the criteria choosing to not be vaccinated?
"I think part of it is no one wants to be the first," Landers said. "Both of these product went through clinical trials and were approved."
Covington also commented.
"401,000 Americans have died," she said. "None of the vaccines have killed anyone. Vaccines - zero deaths. Virus - 401,000 in this country alone."
Those wanting to be added to the waiting list for the vaccine are encouraged to call Covington's office at 334-283-2291. You may also contact Community Hospital's COVID-19 vaccination line at 334-283-3842 Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. to request an appointment.
"When we schedule your appointment for the COVID vaccine," McClain said, "we will need to know if you have any allergies, currently have a fever, have a bleeding disorder or on a blood thinner, if you are immunocompromised or on medication that affects your immune system, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, are breast feeding, if you had reactions to other immunizations, and if you have received another COVID-19 vaccine."
Dr. Karen Landers Interview on WTLS