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Dr. Kenneth Sowinski

First batch available to elderly, front-line workers

The Randolph County Health Department has announced that federally-approved Covid-19 vaccines have this week reached Randolph County. Health Officer Dr. Kenneth Sowinski reports that there is an extremely limited supply, but he expects small quantities to trickle in weekly. 

The first vaccine clinic will be held on Wednesday, Jan 13th at the Randolph County 4-H Fairground’s Husted Hall from 10 a.m. to 6 pm and a second clinic will occur Wednesday, Jan 20, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Husted Hall. 

All vaccines must be pre-scheduled – there will not be walk-in appointments available. Eligible persons may get appointments at places other than Husted Hall, such as the Reid facility in Lynn, at Reid Hospital in Richmond, or at IU Ball Hospital.

Dr. Sowinski answered some of the commonly asked questions about the vaccine.

Who is eligible to sign up for the vaccine? 

The vaccine is now available to individuals age 80 and older, as well as to licensed and unlicensed healthcare workers (including school nurses) and first responders who have face-to-face interactions with patients or infectious material. The complete list can be viewed at https://ourshot.in.gov.

How do I sign up? 

The Indiana State Department of Health has sent links to eligible persons through the state’s licensing agency (PLA). If you did not receive that link, or you are eligible due to age of 80 or older, you can sign up for the immunization at https://ourshot.in.gov. This link will also have the eligibility criteria. 

I encourage the family and friends of any person who is eligible, especially those who are 80 or more but may have difficulty navigating the technology, to assist them in signing up.

What if I am eligible, but all of the appointments are taken? 

The Health Department expects to receive additional doses weekly, but that is subject to availability from the State of Indiana. We will add clinics as we receive vaccine, so watch our Facebook page for updates on additional clinics and changes in eligibility.

When will eligibility be expanded to include me? 

The State of Indiana determines eligibility, and clinics will be expanded as more vaccine becomes available. We expect that 70 years and over will be the next eligible group in the next few weeks, then 60 years and over a few weeks after that. From that point on we have no local information. The State of Indiana will make decisions based on availability of vaccine and persons most vulnerable to the virus. Please continue to watch our Facebook page as we update any changes in expanded eligibility.

Is the vaccine safe? 

The studies for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine had a combined 74,000 volunteers. There are minor side effects of arm soreness, muscle or joint aches, headache and fatigue that may occur for 2-3 days in 5-10 percent of people after the first immunization. That can increase to 80 percent of people with the second vaccine, and the symptoms tend to be a little stronger after the second dose. This is because the symptoms are an indication that the immune system is working. It is a natural and normal response caused by our immune system’s preparation to protect us. 

In the combined studies, there was only one serious adverse allergic type reaction of anaphylaxis. This one person had a prior history of anaphylaxis, so it makes sense that if you have had anaphylaxis (such as from food allergy), you will want to wait a little longer (e.g. 30 minutes) after your immunization for close monitoring. Now that the vaccines have been out a few weeks, there have been a total of 21 worldwide cases of anaphylaxis out of nearly 2 million vaccines administered. It is an exceedingly rare occurrence. 

Because the vaccine was just recently released, we can not have data regarding more long term adverse effects, and this is admittedly unknown. But we do know about the devastating risk to those greater than 60 years old (which have accounted for 93.3% of Indiana’s total Covid-19 deaths), and vulnerable chronically ill persons. With the known excellent short term safety, I strongly encourage immunization for protection against the known danger of Covid-19, especially in vulnerable populations.

What else can I do to help end this pandemic? 

Even with the vaccine rolling out, there will still be Covid-19 cases spreading in Randolph County, and we must remain diligent in preventing spread. 

This means that as tired as we are of hearing it, we must continue to distance 6 feet or more with anyone outside of our immediate household or those inside our “social bubble.” This includes distancing from relatives who do not live in our immediate household (family and friends gathering are the number one cause of continued Covid spread and why we see significant increases in cases after holiday gatherings). 

Masks have been scientifically proven to reduce spread, and rigorous hand hygiene with hand sanitizer and washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds are THE tried, true, and effective mechanisms of reducing spread. We need to continue these practices as we vaccinate if we are to get to pre-pandemic normalcy. 

I have great optimism and hope that we are turning the corner in our battle with Covid. But we will achieve victory sooner if we continue to:

• Stay Safe to Stay Open 

• Mask On 

• Wash Up 

• Be Smart--Stay 6 feet apart 

• And be kind. We are all in this together. As a wise ancient taught, “we are strong united but a house divided will fall.”

May God bless us all and heal our land.

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