health department

CLINICS — The Howard County Health Department announced the launch of COVID-19 vaccine clinics last week as eligibility further opened up.

More Howard County residents are eligible to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

Starting last Friday, the vaccine became available to individuals 80 and older. This came after vaccinations opened up to first responders after initially starting with healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities. The Howard County Health Department will host vaccine clinics to administer the doses.

“We as a county health department encourage everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible. By doing this we help protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community. Vaccination is the best tool we have to help end this pandemic,” said Howard County Health Officer Dr. Emily Backer.

Two vaccines are available, developed by Pfizer and Moderna. Both vaccines require two doses, administered 21 and 28 days apart, respectively. The Howard County Health Department will be providing the Moderna vaccine to eligible residents.

According to Howard County Commissioner Paul Wyman, an expected 500 doses will be received for the next several weeks, which will be given at the health department by appointment only. In February, he expected more than 500 doses per week to be available, and at that point, vaccinations will be given at community sites to ensure social distancing and efficiency.

The vaccines are free, but a photo ID and proof of age are required. For healthcare workers or first responders, verification of current employment is required.

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Though no Kokomo police officers have received the vaccine as of last week, Kokomo Police Chief Doug Stout said it’s important his officers have the opportunity to be vaccinated if they choose. The virus, he said, has impacted the department over the last year.

“That is every individual’s choice as to whether or not anybody wants to participate in a new vaccine,” Stout said. “I sent [information] out because really two reasons. COVID has affected the operations of this department this year, not just based on our response but also based here within City Hall. There have been cases of COVID in this building with city employees, so I think it’s important to at least make sure I get the information and the opportunity out to people who want to take it, to have an opportunity to go ahead and participate in receiving their vaccine.”

Last spring when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in the United States, Stout instituted changes to reduce potential exposure of COVID-19 to KPD officers. Some practices, like officers being able to take reports from complainants over the telephone, still are in play today and have had the benefit of decreasing the response time for citizen complaints.

First responders are part of phase 1B of the vaccine rollout plan issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), following residents of long-term care families and health care personnel. 1B also includes Hoosiers over 80.

According to Kokomo Fire Department Chief Chris Frazier, a “good number” of firemen already have received their first dose of the vaccine and are in the process of receiving their second.

As of Jan. 5, the latest data available from the Indiana State Department of Health, 916 Howard County residents have received their first COVID-19 vaccine. Statewide, 128,026 Hoosiers have received their first dose, while 585 were fully vaccinated.