SEVIERVILLE — Sevier County residents and people who work here can now sign up for a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be administered at four special “first-dose vaccination pods” set to be held in May.

These special vaccination events will be Monday, May 3, and Tuesday, May 4, at the Sevier County Health Department in Sevierville; Monday, May 17, at Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg; and Monday, May 24, at the LeConte Center in Pigeon Forge.

Participants must schedule an appointment in advance and can do so by going to https://bit.ly/32sAr1d or by calling 865-774-3944.

“This is a way we hope to get more of our residents and those who work in Sevier County vaccinated. The more people we get vaccinated the more protection the county has and the more we can get back to normal,” said Joe Ayers, director of the Sevier County Emergency Management Agency.

Letters have been sent out to businesses in Sevier County to promote the pods, which are supported by the Sevier County government and the county’s municipalities, who are working with the Sevier County Health Department.

“We want to serve our community where they are and we recognize pop-up vaccination events such as this allow for more flexibility and opportunity for those seeking a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Corie Gouge, public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Health.

“Dates for second doses have already been scheduled at the same location as the first pop-up POD event, and patients will leave with an appointment day and time to return for their second dose.”

Business owners can register employees or the employees can schedule an appointment themselves. The vaccines are available to all employees and their family members.

Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants must be at least 16 years of age at the time of the vaccine.

Medical professionals saw firsthand how bad the virus impacted Sevier County. One of them is Dr. Jerry Bradley, an emergency medicine specialist at LeConte Medical Center, who shared a little information about the height of the pandemic in October through December.

“It was every day I was — me personally — I was seeing 10 to 12 patients with it,” Bradley said.

At least two of the patients he saw each day were bad enough to be admitted. For a short while the halls were lined with gurneys of sick people waiting to be admitted.

Bradley said he was one of the first in line when a COVID-19 vaccine became available for hospital employees.

“The first day anyone in my family was able to get it they were in line, too, because I pushed them,” he said.

He encourages people to get the vaccine and not to be afraid of complications, which he would not completely rule out but stressed are unlikely.

“The rate of serious complications, especially with Pfizer, is extremely low,” Bradley said.

He believes the vaccine will help Sevier County and the rest of the world get back to normal.

“I very strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated. I think it is not only protection of them, but they are helping everyone else by providing protection for lots of people. It is going to help the infection rate and it is one thing that will bring us back to a true normal,” Bradley said.

Dr. Eric Littleton, who is a columnist for The Mountain Press, also encouraged folks to not be afraid of the vaccine.

“I believe the current vaccines being used are safe and a dramatic next step in battling infectious diseases,” Littleton said. “Anytime the immune system is challenged — whether it’s a cut on the hand, common cold, flu, or even tetanus shot — there can be a vigorous response unique as the individual taking it.”

That response shouldn’t discourage people.

“It is my hope that those eligible to take the vaccine will consider it so that we will find a level of normalcy again,” Littleton said.

Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters recovered from a bout of COVID-19, which he contracted back in December 2020, but he still felt it was important to get the vaccine.

“I’ve said this publicly — I’m not for mandating vaccines, but people need to look at what healthcare officials are saying about it. They are saying it is important people take it to mitigate the spread and stop the virus,” Waters said.

Waters recommended people do their due diligence in making a decision and hopefully will decide to get the vaccine.

He said his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine led to some mild symptoms, but he felt better by the next day. He felt no symptoms after his second dose.