BOONE — Nearly 44 percent of people in Watauga County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while a little more than 40 percent have been fully vaccinated, as of May 19, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
But in just over a month, the percentage of those who received a first dose of the vaccine has only risen six percent — from 37.1 percent on April 15 to 43.9 percent on May 19. County level data is collected by zip code, provided by the person receiving the vaccine. For example, a person can get the vaccine in Ashe County, but if they live in Watauga County, the data would be provided for the zip code they have listed as their residence.
The slowing down of demand means that AppHealthCare has to shift its strategy to get people vaccinated.
“With less demand, I think more effort is going to be required to get the last little bit of folks who are willing to get a vaccine, vaccinated,” AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene said. “It’s going to take us being more mobile.”
Greene said AppHealthCare — which is in constant communication with other vaccine providers — is trying to work on several strategies to get more people vaccinated. The first is to just support those agencies who are ready to give vaccines to the public.
In the past, Greene said the department was in a place where it was getting allotted vaccines by the state and constantly trying to put in requests for more. Now, Greene said the agency can order vaccines.
AppHealthCare also has a mobile vaccination team that can go to businesses or events and administer vaccines.
“We’ve launched an interest form on our website that’s a little bit different but it’s intended to allow for groups to tell us that they want us to come and host a vaccine clinic at their site,” Greene said. “And we are going to do it.”
Greene said the department would go to businesses or churches as requested and perform those clinics. The interest form can be found at tinyurl.com/7v3x2s6r.
“I think that’s going to be what we do more of,” Green said. “Appointments are still going to be something we will offer, but we’re going to try to offer it more real time, no appointment necessary. Less barriers just to make it easy for people to get in.”
Greene also said she hopes to do vaccine clinics in different parts of the community to hopefully reach more people.
“Us making it easy for you and accessible for you so that you can take advantage of it, that’s the vision that we have right now: let’s just make it easy for people,” Greene said. “What we used to say is ‘make the healthy choice the easy choice,’ and I think that’s what we’re gonna try to do is when it comes to the vaccine is make the healthy choice an easy choice. So make it super available.”
AppHealthCare is waiting for further guidance from the federal government on potentially offering incentives for people to get the vaccine. Once the agencies receives guidance, Greene said the department could offer additional incentives to getting the vaccine.
She also said there are other ways to offer incentives for people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are willing to partner with any group that might want to offer the incentive,” Greene said. “I do think incentives are something that could be very helpful moving forward.”
Businesses who want to partner with AppHealthCare with potential incentives can indicate that in the general notes/comments section of the interest form.
More information on COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Watauga County can be found at www.apphealthcare.com/covid-19-vaccinations/.