Knox County Health Dept. cautions public to keep guard up, offers COVID-19 vaccine distribution information

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dr. Martha Buchanan isn’t convinced that the recent decline in new COVID-19 cases among Knox County residents is telling the full story and is urging the public to keep its guard up as first responders began lining up for the vaccine on Monday.

“With our current disease burden in our community we all need to assume that everyone else and we ourselves are potentially infected and potentially contagious unless you know for sure you’re not,” Buchanan, director of the Knox County Health Department, said. “We all need to act like we are potentially getting exposed with every interaction outside our household members.”

The Health Department has reported four straight days of fewer new cases but Buchanan said the Christmas holiday coupled with the weekend likely led to the decline.

“We expect that number will increase as folks get tested this week and next following the holidays, and unfortunately, our hospitals could feel that impact as we move further into January,” Buchanan said.

“It is up to you, the citizens of Knox County, as to how big the surge is.”

First responders get vaccine

Knox County first responders, part of the Phase 1a1 group, rolled up their sleeves Monday to get the COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with the Tennessee Department of Health’s vaccination plan.

KCHD gave instructions to organizations it works with on who qualified to get the vaccine and allowed the organizations to prioritize distribution among themselves. Those willing and chosen were then given a website to go to and given a ticket number telling them when and where to get the vaccine.

Buchanan, again, stressed that it will be several months before the general public gets the chance to receive the vaccine. Phase 1a1 consists of about 450,000 people according to the TDH and includes frontline health care providers, long-term care facilitators and first responders.

Several factors will go into when the public will be able to get the vaccine. The vaccine has been distributed in accordance with the state Department of Health plan. The plan calls for an allocation of the vaccine based on population. Each county will move at varying speeds as some choose to get the vaccine and others do not.

Buchanan explains vaccine’s development

The choice to get the vaccine is up to everyone. Buchanan suggests that those considering getting the vaccine but are wanting to learn more about it should get information from credible sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the TDH, KCHD and their primary care physician.

“This vaccine has not been developed with any shortcuts,” Buchanan said. “All the safety measures have been placed.”

Buchanan said the vaccine’s research, production and approval happened in concurrence with each other instead of in the usual tandem. She gave the example of swimming pool lanes instead of a track relay race.

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