Sweetwater Hospital Association officials are encouraging local residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since its initial FDA approval, Sweetwater Hospital Association (SHA), along with other community healthcare providers, has been working to get as many COVID-19 vaccination shots in arms as possible. SHA staff members have offered vaccinations to in-patients, organized walk-in and drive-up clinics at the hospital, held mass vaccination clinics in several locations throughout the county, taken vaccinations to nursing home residents and gone directly to many residences to ensure those who are homebound are not forgotten.

“In the early months of the vaccine’s availability, there was a sense of urgency by many to protect themselves against the deadly COVID-19 virus,” stated a news release from the hospital. “However, we have seen that as summer approaches and the number of active COVID-19 cases has declined, individuals willing to come out and get protection has significantly decreased.”

As of 2020, Monroe County’s population was estimated to be 47,097. Measured against the 12,245 county residents who have been fully vaccinated, Monroe County has a vaccination rate of 26%. This is slightly lower than the state average 30% and significantly lower than the national average of 38%.

Sweetwater Hospital Association will continue to offer COVID-19 vaccinations in as many settings and time blocks as possible and, in addition, SHA will continue to offer vaccine education.

“Our goal is for Monroe County to be a leader in the number of our residents who are willing to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19 and to help our county, state and our nation put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” SHA CEO Dr. Ian McFadden said.

SHA officials noted focused on several points about the vaccines:

• COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

• Those who receive the shot may have side effects after vaccination. These are normal and should go away in a few days.

• It typically takes two weeks after vaccination for the body to build protection (immunity) against the virus that causes COVID-19. Residents are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose vaccine or two weeks after a one-dose vaccine.

• People who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.

• Officials are still learning how well vaccines prevent people from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if there are no symptoms. Early data show that vaccines help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19.

• Vaccines are now more widely accessible in the U.S. Everyone ages 12 and older is recommended to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

• The federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to all people living in the United States, regardless of their immigration or health insurance status.

Interested parties can visit vaccinefinder.gov to learn more about the vaccines.

SHA offers Moderna vaccine clinics every Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine is available by appointment.

Interested parties can call 865-213-8761 to make an appointment.

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