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Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators

SALISBURY — Saturday’s county vaccine clinic was filled with cars carrying local educators.

Principals, teachers and district administrators were out in force, receiving their first COVID-19 vaccinations and volunteering at the clinic at West End Plaza. More than 500 of the 700 vaccines administered on Saturday were for local educators ages 45 and up. Rowan-Salisbury Schools coordinated with the Rowan County Health Department to register employees for the clinic.

RSS Superintendent Tony Watlington was volunteering on site and received his first dose on Saturday as well. Watlington said he wanted to volunteer and be visible to encourage other employees to get the vaccine. Watlington said getting his first dose gave him a sense of pride in the country creating effective vaccines in a year and the accelerating rollout.

“Several weeks ago, I was very worried it would take a long time for teachers to get the vaccine,” he said, adding he’s glad the governor pushed the priority for school employees up.

Carpentry teacher Scott Eagle said he was glad to get the vaccine because he has to be around people every day. The first dose makes him feel a bit safer, Eagle said.

“I wasn’t worried,” Eagle said. “I knew eventually they’d get it worked out and make these more available to people.”

Angela McLaughlin, a health room assistant, said the vaccine makes her feel more secure.

“I wanted it regardless of where I work,” McLaughlin said. “I think everyone should get it.”

Interim Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris said the county learned and made improvements to the clinics. The Health Department started with a first come, first served model for first doses, which drew people to the clinics en masse and resulted in long wait times. The county’s appointment model has reduced the wait time to about 40 minutes for a dose and resulted in a speed of about 180 vaccines per hour.

The Health Department is also booking second dose appointments. People can feel confident they can get the second dose with the new model, she said.

The department monitors everyone who receives a vaccine for 15 minutes afterward t0 make sure they do not have an adverse reaction to the vaccine. People are given a QR code so they can book their second appointment while they wait.

There are other places to go receive vaccines as well. Novant Health is a vaccine provider, Walgreens is now also a provider and a FEMA site in Greensboro will begin administering 3,000 doses per day starting March 10.

“It’s an impressive effort to ramp up what we are able to do,” Harris said, adding she expects the rollout to continue to pick up.

A new, single-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

Harris said the one-dose vaccine has proven more effective than annual influenza vaccines. The county is encouraging people to be vaccinated when it’s their turn and not shop around.

“Really it’s about getting that shot into arms, and any one of the vaccines available now will provide that protection for you,” Harris said.

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