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13 deaths reported in Rowan, county stresses need to receive second dose

SALISBURY — COVID-19 positives and vaccinations are showing steady improvement, but the same isn’t true for deaths in Rowan County.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported 13 deaths this week, bringing the total to 282 since the start of the year, 109 since the start of the year and 39 this month.

Between late November and mid January, at least one death occurred almost every day, according to state data. It was a concentration of deaths only matched by a period in late August and early September. Now, state data show deaths occurring less frequently than the holiday spike, but fatalities are being recorded at higher numbers and more frequently than before Thanksgiving.

The state classifies 255 Rowan County deaths at molecular positives, which are confirmed cases, and 27 as antigen positives, which represent probable cases of COVID-19 in accordance with federal guidance.

Of the deaths, a majority (64%) have been among people 75 and older, about 17% have been among people 65 to 74, 9% have been among people 50-64 and 2% have been people 25 to 49. Age data isn’t available for 7% of deaths.

More women than men in Rowan have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

Rowan County has more COVID-19 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, than any neighboring county. Closest is Cabarrus County, which has 235.

The number of COVID-19 positives increased by 42 on Friday and 52 on Saturday. There have been 673 positives in the previous two weeks and 14,838 since the start of the pandemic.

The percent of residents vaccinated in Rowan, meanwhile, crossed 10% on Friday. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said 14,220 local residents have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Data isn’t updated on Saturday or Sunday. So, the numbers don’t include the roughly 700 first doses the Rowan County Health Department planned to administer during its weekend drive-thru clinic.

Second doses administered to county residents stood at 7,794 on Friday, which is about 5.49% of county residents. The percentage of Rowan residents vaccinated with two doses remains lower than all adjacent counties.

The Rowan County Health Department has not yet scheduled its next vaccination clinic for first doses.

In a news release on Saturday, the Rowan County Health Department stressed the importance of people receiving their second vaccination appointment. It helps clinics run more smoothly and further decreases the chance of contracting and/or spreading COVID-19.

The following is a series of questions and answers from the Rowan County Health Department about receiving a second vaccination.

What happens in your clinics when a person does not show up for their second vaccination?

In order to make sure that we do not waste any vaccine, we will not open up a new vial unless we have enough arms to put the vaccination in. For the Moderna shot, that means that we have to have 10 people available. For the Pfizer vaccine, we need access to six people. If you do not show up for your second dose, this could very well mean that we will not have enough people on site to open up a new vial. If this occurs, we sometimes have to ask the people that are already in line for their vaccine to come back for another day in order to not waste any vaccine.

Also when administering the vaccine, we have to be aware of its shelf life. For both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine, an open vial has to be used within six hours. If it is not used by then, any vaccine left in a vial must then be thrown away.

Why do you need two shots?

Vaccines are designed to create immunological memory, which gives our immune system the ability to recognize and fend off invading foes, even if we have not encountered them before. Two-shot vaccinations aim for a maximum benefit: the first dose primes the immunological memory, and the second dose solidifies it. Research shows that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine can reduce the average person’s risk of getting a symptomatic infection by about 50%. One dose of the Moderna shot can do so by about 80%. Two doses of either vaccine are known to lowering your risk of contracting COVID-19 by about 95%. 

Am I protected from COVID-19 immediately after getting the second shot of the vaccine?

No. It takes a few weeks after receiving a vaccination for one’s body to build up COVID-19 immunity. 

One should start to develop some immunity 12 to 14 days after the first vaccine, but they won’t reach the 90% to 95.6% protection range against the virus until a week or more after their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. 

Please note it is unknown at this time how long any immunity from just a single dose would last. 

If people are only partially immunized with one dose, could that fuel more dangerous coronavirus variants?

Not getting fully vaccinated could turn your body into a breeding ground for antibody-resistant viruses, just like not finishing an entire course of antibiotics could help fuel an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The pace of a virus is not only determined by the weakness or strength of the immune system, it is also affected by the sheer number of viruses circulating in the population. Without widespread immunizations, the number of variants might continue to grow.

Is it OK to get the second COVID-19 shot later than scheduled? What happens if the second dose clinic is scheduled before the date on my vaccination card?

Depending on which vaccine one receives, you will be scheduled for your second dose about 21 or 28 days after the first. Do not panic, however, if you can’t receive your second dose on that exact date. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that the second dose for both Pfizer and Moderna can be administered up to 42 days after the first vaccine. It is also important to know the CDC allows a grace period of up to four days for your second dose and considers this two-shot series valid.

In other words, don’t worry if a second dose clinic is held a few days earlier than what is scheduled on your vaccine card. Also, if you can’t make it to a clinic when your second vaccine is scheduled, for whatever reason, try rescheduling it as close to the day that you were suppose to come back.

What if I am scared about getting sick from the second dose and that’s why I haven’t come?

Side effects are a totally normal reaction with this vaccine. It has been noted that more people may experience side effects with their second dose; however, these side effects usually subside within two days. 

The only time you should not get your second shot is if your doctor has told you not to do so. This may include individuals who may have had severe allergic reactions to their first dose. However, this has been found to be very rare.

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