The oldest Forsyth County residents eligible for Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations could begin receiving them as early as Wednesday from county health officials.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Phase 1B includes: ages 75 years and older; health care and frontline essential workers ages 50 and up; and frontline and health care workers of any age regardless of whether they work directly with COVID-19 patients.
The Forsyth County Department of Public Health said the first round of Phase 1B vaccinations will be for those ages 75 and older. They are asked to call 336-703-2081 to make an appointment.
Forsyth public health officials said late Monday that it will take several weeks before vaccinations will begin for other IB subgroups. Individuals in those groups are asked not to call to make an appointment until notification they are eligible.
The call center handling appointments was overwhelmed Monday when lines opened, Deputy County Manager Shontell Robinson said. After callers waited on hold, at least some of them heard a recording stating that the voicemail for the number was full. Dialing the same number a few minutes later, they heard that the voicemail had not been set up.
Robinson clarified later in the day that there wasn’t supposed to be a voicemail.
She advised people to be patient and continue to try calling. The lines will be manned from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Jan. 17.
Robinson said more than 400 people were successful in making an appointment for Wednesday.
DHHS is relying on new federal definitions to determine who qualifies as an essential frontline worker.
Essential frontline workers are first responders, including firefighters and police; education workers, including child care workers, teachers and support staff; manufacturing employees, corrections officers, public transit employees; grocery store workers; food and agricultural workers; and U.S. postal workers.
The county will administer the Moderna and Phizer vaccines, which require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires the second dose after 21 days, while Moderna requires the second dose after 28 days.
The Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t have to be stored in ultra-cold freezers, will be the primary vaccine used by county health departments, pharmacies and long-term care facilities.
Officials stress that anyone who makes an appointment, but can't keep it, needs to cancel at least two hours in advance since the vaccine requires thawing out, which leaves a limited window for vaccination.
The current Phase 1A distribution is for health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, individuals who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.
DHHS estimated that up to 951,000 individuals could receive vaccine doses in the first phase. More information is available at www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov, including more details on Phases 1A and 1B.
The federal DHHS has formed a partnership with CVS Health and Walgreens to handle vaccination for most of the nation’s long-term care facilities. North Carolina's first round of doses for its long-term care facilities began last week.
Phase Two will cover adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness in the following order:
* Group 1: those ages 65 to 74 years regardless of medical condition or living situation.
* Group 2, anyone 16 to 64 with a medical condition that increases risk of severe disease from COVID-19.
* Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who has not already been vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.
* Group 4: Essential workers as defined by the CDC who have not yet been vaccinated.
Phase Two is expected to cover between 1.18 and 1.5 million North Carolinians.
Phase Three will cover college, university and high school students ages 16 or older. Younger children will be vaccinated when it is approved for them.
It is expected to include between 574,000 and 767,000 individuals overall.
Phase Four will cover anyone else who wants a vaccine, or between 3.6 million and 4 million North Carolinians. Those doses are expected to begin being available in March or April.