On the first Saturday of 2021, the MHA Foundation helped coordinate the administration of 150 Moderna vaccines to public safety personnel and health care workers at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and organizers hope to do more – and soon.
MHA Foundation President Kenny Evans volunteered, along with 28 others, to facilitate the event.
“It went as smooth as testing,” he said of the all-day effort which used the same logistics as previous testing blitzes hosted by MHA.
In the now familiar configuration, cars lined up according to appointment times before drivers received a shot. Nurses from the National Guard administered the vaccine.
In order to ensure recipients did not have any side effects, volunteers required patients to wait a set amount of time before leaving.
“You have to sit there for 15 minutes,” said Evans, unless a patient had a medical history. Then the wait time increased to 30 minutes, he said.
Despite having EMT’s on standby, none of those inoculated in Payson had ill effects, Evans said. However, the Centers for Disease Control report some who have received the vaccine complain of pain and swelling at the injection site. Others report a fever, chills, tiredness or headache.
Evans expressed frustration that the state won’t release more vaccines for distribution.
“The challenge is to put on a mass event like that,” he said.
Health Departments across the nation have chosen to only use half of the stock of vaccines the federal government has provided because they have no guarantee they will receive the second dose. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a second dose 20 to 30 days after the first dose for the full protective effect.
Since MHA could not guarantee it would receive another 300 vaccines within the vaccination window, MHA would only provide the 150 doses.
Evans has an opinion about the second doses.
“It’s not doing anybody any good sitting in a refrigerator,” he said.
He would rather see the government send more vaccines, but they haven’t because vaccination plans lag.
So far, said Evans, the government has lacked the “ability to get it out and organized enough for people to show up.” He learned this after spending hours in meetings to find out when the community will receive more vaccines.
Gila County has seen a spike in COVID cases and deaths this fall and winter, along with the entire country. Statistics show the older population has suffered the most deaths. According to Census data, 40% of Gila County residents are over 65. This translates to more risk. The faster a vaccine can be distributed, the more lives will be saved.
Evans would like the opportunity to administer 5,000 vaccinations, instead of the 150.
“We have demonstrated a successful model,” he said. “Why don’t we use Payson as an example?”
The Gila County Health Department estimates the first phase of vaccinations will be completed by mid-February.
Phase 1 has three breakout groups, A: Frontline health care workers, emergency medical service workers, and long-term care facility staff and residents.
B: Adults in group settings, law enforcement, teachers, and childcare workers, and essential services/critical industry workers.
C: Any adults over 65 and older, and any adults of any age with high-risk medical conditions.
The county has contacted and scheduled all of those in the 1A group.
For future groups, the county will announce which group will go into which category over social media, press releases and website updates (www.readygila.com).
The county has an email address to sign up for an appointment but asks that those waiting for a vaccine delay contacting the department until their group has been announced. Email email@example.com.
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