On Tuesday, the director of Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) said the county's weekly COVID-19 vaccinate allocation will be slightly higher.
Public Health Director Stacie Saunders said for the past three weeks, the county health department has gotten 1,950 doses per week. Starting this week, they have 2,340 doses per week. However, she said they're still getting the same number of vaccine vials, they'll just be expected to extract six doses from each Pfizer vaccine vial instead of five.
One tray, or about 1,000 of those weekly doses, will go towards vaccinating school staff, who will become eligible for a shot starting Feb. 24. Saunders said right now, public, private and charter school systems in the county are creating lists of staff members interested in getting a vaccine. She said they have until the end of the business day on Wednesday to get those lists to the county health department.
Using those lists, county health employees will schedule about 1,000 vaccine appointments for school staff per week. She said they'll be prioritizing school-based staff first and then move on to district or administrative staff.
"If a school employee misses the deadline to be placed on that list by their administrator, they will be directed to the Buncombe County waitlist for Group 3 when it opens on March 10 for frontline essential workers," Saunders said.
A county spokesperson told News 13 that school staff vaccinations will begin Saturday, Feb. 27, at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. First doses for school staff will be given there and second doses will be administered at a drive-through vaccination site at Biltmore Church, starting March 20.
Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) has also received vaccine doses and is partnering with the Buncombe Partnership for Children to identify childcare facility staff eligible for the vaccine.
This week, BCHHS will also receive 300 additional doses from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) for improving the equitable distribution of vaccine to marginalized populations. BCHHS will partner with Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church and Western Carolina University to hold a vaccine event to better meet the needs of historically marginalized populations. They plan to provide opportunities for vaccine access that otherwise may be limited for those who qualify in the active phases of adults 65 and older, health care workers and school personnel.
The remainder of the health department's weekly vaccine allotment will go towards people already in Groups 1 and 2 who have been waiting on the county's lengthy waitlist. Currently, they're scheduling people in the 10-12 thousand range on that list. After that, about 40,000 people will still remain on that waitlist.
Saunders said the county has heard from some people on the waitlist who have already gotten a shot through other vaccine providers, like Walgreens.
If individuals need to remove their name from the waitlist, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-419-0095 or 828-250-5000.
To date, BCHHS has administered 25,502 total vaccinations. Through BCHHS and private vaccine administration, about 12% of Buncombe County’s population has received at least a first dose of the vaccine.
Click here for more information on Buncombe County's COVID-19 vaccination efforts.