Monday was the first day of COVID-19 vaccinations for Monroe County.

The first wave of vaccinations will be distributed to first responders and health care professionals.

According to information released by the Monroe County Health Department, the first phase of vaccinations will need two shots spread three to four weeks apart.

“The vaccines have already been given to tens of thousands of people and have been shown to be safe and very good at stopping you from getting sick with COVID-19,” the release stated. “Getting the COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary and you will not have to get a vaccine to go to work or school. We strongly encourage you to get the vaccine to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.”

People who work in any of the following places are included in the phase 1a1 group and will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine first: hospitals and free-standing emergency departments, including paid and unpaid staff; medical providers and unlicensed workers with direct exposure to COVID-19 patients or potentially infectious material; home health care; long term care facilities; residential homes for the aged; assisted living facilities/homes, including those supporting people with intellectual or developmental disabilities; rehabilitation and psychiatric hospitals; COVID-19 mass testing sites; first responders who have direct contact with patients or the public; and staff who provide health care services within schools, colleges and universities.

“Supply of the vaccine will be limited at first, therefore if you are equal to or under 65 years or are currently in treatment for cancer or have a diagnosis of diabetes type 1 or 2, coronary artery disease or other serious cardiac disease (not including high blood pressure), chronic kidney disease, sickle cell anemia (not including sickle cell trait), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity with BMI less than or equal to 30 or have a history of solid organ transplant you will be given the vaccine ahead of the healthier individuals in phase 1a1,” stated the release.

The first recipient of the vaccine locally was the Sweetwater Chief of Police Eddie Byrum.

“I am very excited and very thankful for the vaccination,” he said. “I am very thankful to Mrs. Teresa Harrill (Monroe County Health Department regional director) and the health department for providing this and hosting it.”

Byrum also thanked Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee for making the vaccine available for first responders.

“We go into a lot of homes and we are around a lot of people who have the ability to carry or spread the virus,” he noted. “I’m just thankful that this made it a little safer.”

According to Harrill, the health department plans to host a “POD” on Wednesday to provide the vaccine to all qualifying persons who wish to obtain it.

Vaccinations are currently planned to be available to the general public by mid to late spring.

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