The Hamilton County Health Department is adjusting its vaccine distribution strategy in an effort to shorten lines and more equally distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
Starting Jan. 5, the health department will use an alphabetical system for the current group of people eligible for vaccinations. Within the group that can receive the vaccine now — including health care staff, first responders, residents of long-term-care facilities and any resident aged 75 or older — people with last names starting with the letters A through K can receive the vaccine from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday at the distribution site, 4501 Amnicola Highway.
On Wednesday, people eligible for the vaccine with last names starting with the letters L through Z can receive the vaccine between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The health department announced Monday that about 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be available each day.
People seeking the vaccine must bring proof of residency in Hamilton County or proof they meet the work eligibility requirements, such as a work ID, badge, pay stub or letter from their employer in Hamilton County.
On Dec. 31, the day after Hamilton County expanded eligibility for the vaccine, lines for the Amnicola Highway inoculation station were so long people were directed to come back later. Health officials then had to turn people away because there was no more vaccine available that day, only to discover later unused doses after the station closed. People still working at the vaccination station then called anyone they knew to come get doses of the vaccine.
Becky Barnes, Hamilton County Health Department administrator, said in a statement the mistake was due to the department's first day handling of the Pfizer vaccine. More doses could be drawn from each vial than previously thought and, due to the nature of the vaccine, once doses are open they must be administered within hours.
"The dose estimate was a miscalculation on our part and we have learned from this," Barnes said in a statement. "We ask for the continued patience of our residents as Health Department staff work through the challenges this massive undertaking brings."
As part of the change announced Monday, the health department said that people already in line near the end of a distribution day can wait to see if more doses are available, as long as they have already been approved as eligible at a screening station near the entrance.
Contact Wyatt Massey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.
Are you eligible for the vaccine?
The following list contains all the currently eligible groups in Hamilton County as of Jan. 4, according to the county health department:
* All health care workers with direct exposure to patients or potentially infectious materials (including hospital staff, outpatient providers, pharmacy staff, patient transport, therapists, janitors, dental providers, behavioral health providers, laboratory staff working with COVID-19 specimens, funeral/mortuary workers)
* Home health care staff
* COVID-19 mass testing site staff
* Student health providers
* Staff and residents of long-term-care facilities
* First responders
* Individuals over age 18 who cannot live independently due to health conditions or disability
* Anyone 75 years or older (must be Hamilton County resident)