DOVER — More than half of all Delawareans 16 years old and older have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
And as the state tries to reach the other half, there are more vaccination options than ever for Delawareans.
“It has become easier than ever to become vaccinated,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said last week.
For the first several months of the state’s distribution plan, the state was always worried about having enough supply to keep up with demand. Now those supply and demand curves are about to flip.
As more and more Delawareans receive their vaccines, state officials are hopeful they can still keep pushing vaccine out — shifts to smaller, community-based events, mobile clinics and more walk-in appointments.
“The demand is where I’m concerned,” said Dr. Rick Hong, DPH’s medical director during a recent vaccine task force meeting. “It’s going down, or we’re having to work harder to locate demand. So yeah, there’s some worry tied to too much vaccine because we don’t want to just hold vaccine for no reason. We make every effort to have a plan for each dose of vaccine we receive on a weekly basis, whether it’s just providers or whether it’s through events. But we do realize we need to focus more on targeted events and more on convenience of walk-ups.”
The DPH announced last week new walk-in hours for vaccines at DPH clinics. Those clinics have the Pfizer vaccine and second dose appointments may be scheduled on site. Individuals can also walk in for second dose appointments, if they have already received their first dose at a different site.
The five clinics — Porter Public Health Clinic in Wilmington, Williams Public Health Clinic in Dover, Riverwalk Public Health Clinic in Milford, Adams Public Health Clinic in Georgetown and Shipley Public Health Clinic in Seaford — now have walk-in hours of 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Dr. Rattay said these clinics are set up in specific areas to help with the state’s equity initiatives.
In Sussex County, Beebe Healthcare has vaccination appointments available at four locations and is partnering with local organizations such as First State Community Action Agency, La Esperanza, La Red, Nanticoke Indian Tribe, the poultry industry and local restaurants to bring vaccine all across the county. Appointments can be made online by visiting www.beebehealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.
Beebe has administered more than 35,000 doses and has held four mobile events using Sussex County’s library bookmobile.
Dr. David Tam, Beebe’s president and CEO, said the bookmobile has allowed Beebe to vaccinate homeless individuals and others who either cannot travel to a clinic or might not want to.
“In Sussex County it is a very diverse population separated by large distances,” Dr. Tam said. “It’s an opportunity to vaccinate people who might not feel comfortable coming to a clinic or a hospital,”
Statewide, there have been 757,157 doses of vaccine administered, as of Friday at 11:59 p.m. The DPH is reporting 52.8% of all eligible Delawareans have received at least one dose of vaccine.
A total of 300,755 Delawareans are fully vaccinated while 334,030 total persons have been fully vaccinated in Delaware, which includes non-residents. Non-Delawareans can be vaccinated in the state provided they either work in Delaware or receive their healthcare in the state.
An additional 122,289 individuals have received their first dose of a two-dose vaccine series and are awaiting their second dose, including 109,668 Delawareans.
Making sure a person completes their vaccine cycle by getting the second dose has become a priority for the DPH. The New York Times recently reported 8% of Americans are skipping their second dose for fear of side effects.
A DPH spokesperson said it is working on this analysis to see how big of a problem it is in Delaware.
Dr. Hong said the only reason where it is acceptable to skip a second dose is if the individuals had major reactions to the first dose.
“The only reason someone should skip a second dose is a significant or life-threatening reaction from the first dose such that risk for a similar or worse reaction from the second dose is more important than extended protection from the second dose,” Dr. Hong said. “This should be discussed with your primary care provider.”
Side effects are normal for those who receive the second dose, according to the state’s medical professionals. They may include soreness near the injection site, fatigue, headaches, chills, fever and joint or muscle pain. Dr. Hong said they usually go away in a few days.
“We do want people to be prepared for potential side effects that may occur after vaccination, but to know that mild side effects are normal, temporary and are a sign that your body is building a response to protect itself from the virus,” Dr. Hong said.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) offers the following guidance:
• It is not recommended that people take pain relievers before they are vaccinated to try and prevent side effects.
• People should talk to their medical providers about using over-the-counter pain relievers to lessen the discomfort of side effects after receiving the vaccine.
• To reduce pain at the injection site, apply a clean, cool, wet washcloth to the arm to reduce pain and exercise the arm.
• People experiencing discomfort from fever should drink plenty of fluids and dress lightly.
Gov. John Carney received his second dose last Sunday and said his side effects lasted about 24 hours.
“It’s well worth the aftermath of getting that second dose where you feel like you have a touch of the flu coming on, which is what I felt,” Gov. Carney said. “But it was well worth it, 24 hours it was done, boom, and you feel great.”