Bay County continues COVID-19 vaccination effort as an overwhelming amount of people sign up to receive it

The Bay County Health Department continues its COVID-19 vaccination effort as thousands of people register online to receive the vaccine.
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 2:52 PM EST
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BAY CITY, Mich. (WJRT) - The Bay County Health Department continues its COVID-19 vaccination effort as thousands of people register online to receive the vaccine.

Joel Strasz, the department’s public health officer, said that since the vaccine arrived in mid-December, the department has gotten through about 80 percent of the people in Phase 1A of the state’s recommended vaccine priority groups, which is lower than anticipated.

“It’s been a lot slower than we expected because of a variety of different reasons,” he said. “Number one, we didn’t receive the vaccine until December 18 and we’ve had problems with the holiday, you know the rescheduling problems with folks to get it out.”

Another challenge is that the department, like many others, is facing a vaccine supply issue.

Strasz explained that Bay County has almost exclusively been receiving only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine because of the county’s deep freeze capacity. Strasz said that most of the Moderna vaccine shipments have been going to CVS and Walgreens stores across the state so the supply is in big demand.

As of Tuesday, the county’s health department had only a few thousand doses of the vaccine on hand.

Strasz said that also complicating the vaccination effort is the fact that getting this vaccine to thousands of people is a difficult task in itself.

“This is a very different vaccination process than what we’ve seen before,” he said. “Specifically, if folks remember back with H1N1 we basically just got a load of a vaccine, we had 600 to about 1,000 people crammed into a gymnasium and then we would proceed with the vaccinations well with this particular vaccine, we’ve got to ensure social distancing. We don’t want to have an outbreak occur during a vaccination event. We also have to make sure that the appropriate people are getting vaccinated.”

Strasz called this the largest public health undertaking in the history of Bay County.

The health department has set up an online COVID-19 vaccination registry to help ease the process but even that is getting overwhelmed.

“We’ve been working very, very diligently, “ Strasz said. “I know there’s been a lot of frustration. We’ve had an overwhelming response from the general public for registration. So far as of yesterday, there was about 12,000 people that had registered.”

Strasz said that the health department does have a few thousand people that have not been able to register online because of no internet access but they are working to contact them this week. He also said that people using the online registry are sometimes not filling it out completely or trying to fill it out multiple times. He said both of those actions are complicating efforts further.

“So, I just ask people, please be patient,” he said. “We’re rolling out the vaccines as much we can.”

In the coming weeks, Strasz expects the vaccine supply to significantly increase and for the vaccination process to speed up quickly. He also said that Bay County will be rolling out a new phone number for people to call to register for the vaccine in the coming days.

“We expect that we will get more as the days and the weeks come in,” Strasz said. “You’ll see a pretty significant expansion in the vaccine efforts, especially as more providers come online in the coming weeks.”

For more information on Bay County’s vaccination effort, visit the county health department’s website.

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