SEVIERVILLE — Covenant Health could soon be providing additional COVID-19 vaccinations for residents aged 75 and older in Sevier County.
Officials with the health care provider said Monday they’re still in the process of vaccinating staff, but are working to begin offering vaccinations for people ages 75 and up this week.
Earlier this month, Gov. Bill Lee added people that age to the list of people who can receive vaccinations in Tennessee.
The Sevier County Health Department has already started those vaccinations, and now Covenant Health leaders said they could soon be in a position to provide them as well, during a presentation from two professionals who are leading the vaccination effort.
The health care network oversees 10 hospitals in East Tennessee, including LeConte Medical Center in Sevier County.
They hope to start administering the vaccine to patients 75 and older in Knox County this week, and are working on plans for surrounding counties, said Dr. Mark Browne, chief medical officer for Covenant.
Browne and the chief nursing officer, Debbi Honey, also updated progress throughout the network, although they didn’t address the status of individual hospitals.
So far they said they’ve provided the initial vaccination to at least 60% of Covenant staff who have said they wanted to get one.
“We are well into a great plan of getting people vaccinated,” Honey said.
Only “a handful” have declined, she said.
They also gave some additional insight for people planning to get vaccinated.
Tennessee has been administering vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, both approved by the FDA.
They each require two shots for full effectiveness. The second dose for Pfizer is recommended about 21 days later; for Moderna it’s about 30 days.
If someone can’t get their second vaccination in that time, they don’t have to restart the process, Browne said.
So far, they haven’t had any major adverse reactions to the vaccine among staff — they said most issues they were aware of were chills and sore arms after getting vaccinated.
But, for people who still want to wait for a while once they’re eligible, they said the opportunity will still be there after they become eligible under the state rollout.
“That door stays open,” Honey said.
The goal of the vaccinations is to reach the point where the community has “herd immunity” — the point where so much of the community is immune to the virus that it indirectly protects people who aren’t immune.
In the meantime, people will need to continue wearing face masks and social distancing to help mitigate its spread.
“All the other things we have to continue doing,” Browne said.
While East Tennessee has seen a high rate of hospitalizations for months, Browne said they have not had to deny critical care to any patients.
“We have not had to make a decision that people do not get care,” he said.
The Tennessee Department of Health reported five new deaths related to COVID-19 among Sevier County residents over the weekend, bringing the total to 90 since the virus was first found in the county.
There were four new hospitalizations, according to the state, and active cases climbed to 1,200.
There were 276 positive tests out of 1,006 results, for a positivity rate of 27.4%.
Sevier County schools, in their biweekly update, said they had 48 students with active cases of the virus Monday and 221 quarantined.
They also reported 31 staff with active cases, and 30 staff quarantined.
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