Pikeville Medical Center partners with Pike County Health Department to keep COVID-19 vaccines flowing through community

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 11:13 AM EST
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PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WYMT) - Pikeville Medical Center is moving toward the next wave of vaccinations for people in the Big Sandy region.

PMC officials gathered for a ceremonial vaccination Tuesday as medical professionals received their second and final dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. During that ceremony, CEO Donovan Blackburn announced that the hospital is moving forward, making plans to help vaccinate the community.

The hospital is currently finishing its 1A tier, thanks to the partnership that allowed the Pike County Health Department to focus on first responders as the hospital vaccinated healthcare workers. Now, Blackburn said the hospital is moving on to the 1B tier, which includes teachers and elderly community members 70 years old and older. Those groups, he said, will also be broken up between the two facilities.

PMC Medical Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Fadi Al Akhrass said that teamwork has put Pike County in a unique position to keep the vaccine flowing to those who need it most.

“We said that a long time ago, the only way to get through the process is by thinking as ‘we’, not as ‘I.’ And since day number one, I said together we can make our community stronger than ever,” said Dr. Al Akhrass.

He said many people are coming around to the vaccine, saying it has been weeks since the first injections and people are now seeing that the minimal possible side effects of receiving a vaccination are nothing in comparison to the effects of the coronavirus.

“This is the goal. To reach an immunity- we call it herd immunity- it should come from two different things. Either from infection or from vaccination. And you need a number of 70% at least, or even more,” he said. “I prefer that herd immunity comes from vaccination than from infection. Because at the end, it’s going to be a balanced situation.”

According to Blackburn, the health department is working with the local school districts to get area educators vaccinated while PMC is scheduling vaccinations for people 70 years old and older. PMC is opening those vaccines to people in Pike, Floyd, Magoffin, Martin, Johnson, Knott, and Letcher counties in the weeks to come. If you or a family member would like to be added to the waitlist, click here.

Public Health Director Tammy Riley said the department is excited to be able to help spread the vaccine to the community, which is something she said they did not expect to see happen this early in the year.

“We are gonna get shots in arms for every single individual that is interested in receiving a vaccine. And we’re gonna make that happen very quickly,” said Riley. “That light is getting brighter and I think all of our hopes are being uplifted and our spirits are being uplifted.”

And, though the light is showing at the end of the tunnel, Riley stressed the importance of continuing to mask up and keep the COVID-19 safety guidelines in place.

Blackburn said vaccines are still limited, so he hopes people will remain patient. As more vaccines become available, he said, the current COVID-19 testing site on South Mayo Trail in Pikeville will become a multi-lane vaccine drive-thru.

Health professionals ask people who come to be vaccinated to bring someone with them since the vaccine requires a small monitoring window for those who take it.

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