WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly “Morning Mingle” event virtually via Zoom on Jan. 14. The meeting, which was sponsored by The Tavern, featured guest speaker Jennifer Greene who serves as the Health Director/CEO of AppHealthCare.
Over 30 participants tuned in to the meeting and were eager to hear the information Greene presented regarding COVID-19 vaccinations in Ashe County.
To kick off the meeting Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kitty Honeycutt introduced Greene, who is a Watauga County native, to viewers.
Greene received her undergraduate degree in Health Promotion from Appalachian State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the Council on Education for Public Health, which is an accredited program through Des Moines University’s Osteopathic Medical School.
“Jen has been one of the absolute treats for me in this position to get to know and work with,” Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt added that her choice of song to introduce Greene would be “Still Waters Run Deep,” by The Four Tops because she handles everything with knowledge, wisdom and grace.
Greene reminded everybody to remain vigilant and continue practicing the 3 W’s and other prevention measures since case numbers continue to rise.
“Sadly, we are losing people in our community that we love dearly, that are special to us all,” Greene said. “I just want you all to know that I see that and our staff feel that too. So we want to do all that we can to roll out vaccines.”
She added that AppHealthCare hopes that as more people are vaccinated, they will be able to slow the spread of COVID-19 and there will be decreases in hospitalizations and deaths.
By visiting AppHealthCare’s website at www.apphealthcare.com, one can access weekly situation reports for all three counties, the COVID-19 data dashboard (which is updated daily) and a COVID-19 vaccine interest form.
To access the vaccine interest form, click HERE.
AppHealthCare is accepting volunteers for COVID-19 vaccination clinics. Those who wish to volunteer are not required to have any medical experience. A form is available on the website and any information provided will be kept private and secure.
To access the form, click HERE.
Those who are interested in vaccination or would like to volunteer their time, but need assistance filling out the forms can email firstname.lastname@example.org or reach the COVID-19 call center at (828) 795-1970.
According to Greene, every week the state is allocated a number of doses of the vaccine and the vaccine is distributed between health departments and hospitals.
Each week AppHealthCare is notified of how many doses of the vaccine they will receive for the following week. This is based on Operation Warp Speed as imposed by the Federal Government.
Greene added that the week of Jan. 18, AppHealthCare is set to receive its first round of second doses of the Moderna vaccine. These will be administered to those who were vaccinated in December 2020.
According to Greene, through clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine has been deemed “incredibly effective.”
Currently, Ashe County has and will continue to get the Moderna vaccine. Greene said she is unsure at this time as to whether or not Ashe County will receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
According to Greene, both vaccines are proven to be over 90 percent effective.
“We have confidence in both of the vaccines, there’s just a few differences in timing and how we manage them,” Greene said.
During the meeting, viewers were given the opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with Greene.
Honeycutt started the session, asking about the timeframe between first and second doses of the vaccine and about when the vaccine is considered effective.
Greene answered by saying that with the Moderna vaccine, the second dose is administered four weeks later.
Upon receiving a vaccination, people are provided with a vaccine card which contains information about the vaccination received.
The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is administered, at the latest, 23 days after the first.
According to Greene, typically it takes a couple of weeks for people to build up immunity after being vaccinated with both doses.
Sherman Lyle, one of the owners of The Tavern, expressed concern about patrons at the restaurant saying they are excited to receive a vaccine because they will no longer have to wear a mask.
Greene encouraged all of the owners of The Tavern to continue to encourage people to wear face coverings, despite whether or not they have been vaccinated. She added that people cannot let their guard down because the goal of vaccines is to gain a higher level of immunity through the majority of the population receiving the immunization.
Frank Hijek, who is also one of the owners of The Tavern, asked Greene about the new strain of COVID-19 which was originally contracted in the U.K..
Greene said so far there have not been any cases in North Carolina, but there have been cases reported in the United States.
This new strain, based on current studies, it is anticipated to be at least 50 percent more infectious than the current strain causing the pandemic.
One of the questions sent to Honeycutt by a viewer asked if those who wish to volunteer can feel safe doing so and whether or not they needed to be vaccinated prior to volunteering.
Greene said all who volunteer will receive a vaccine.
Honeycutt then addressed the fear many people are experiencing that is impacting their ultimate decision of whether or not to get the vaccine.
“If we look back in history, vaccines are what has made the difference for public health,” Greene said.
Greene added that both vaccines have exceeded expectations in comparison to already established childhood immunizations.
“A lot of people put hope in the Shingles vaccine and the research behind this vaccine is even more extensive than what was done for that,” Greene said.
She added that she does not want to discount people’s fears but wants them to be aware that there is “good science behind the vaccine.”
Greene said so far there has been a lot of success in those who have been vaccinated.
After receiving the first dose, people can expect to experience some soreness in their arm, which is not a cause for alarm. The second dose may cause people to feel tired or achy the following day.
“That is part of the immune response, and that is what we want,” Greene said. “It is your body recognizing it and then fighting it off.”
Past Chair of the Chamber, Karen Powell, expressed her appreciation for Greene and AppHealthCare staff.
“We appreciate you and your staff’s efforts more than we can say,” Powell said. “I think the ‘Show Your Love’ campaign has been a wonderful way to educate the public and I think education is so important.”
Powell also addressed the false sense of security people have due to the COVID-19 vaccine becoming available. She said vaccinations can serve as a continuation of the “Show Your Love” campaign by adding an extra layer of protection to the community as they continue to practice the 3 W’s.
The next “Morning Mingle” will be on Feb. 11 and will be sponsored by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Guest speakers will be Heather Peters and Maggi Birdsell of Elevation Health in West Jefferson. The topic discussed will be viruses and the immune system and will provide viewers with information about how to boost their immune system during the pandemic.