GREG LOWER

Almost half of eligible Neosho County residents have been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, and organizers with the Community of Immunity committee are working to increase that number to prevent as many as 115 more local deaths.

Volunteers with Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center and Neosho County Community College, among others, will be at Friday’s Chanute High School football game against Coffeyville to schedule immunizations.

Anna Methvin, Director of the NMRMC Foundation, said they will not administer the vaccine Friday, but will make appointments for the Family Medicine Clinic. People can also schedule flu shots or the COVID-19 booster.

As of Monday, 6,892 Neosho County residents had completed the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

That is 49.61 percent of the eligible population. So far, 1,947 people who are fully vaccinated have signed up for a drawing at noon Oct. 27 to receive a $15,000 cash prize or one of ten $1,000 cash prizes.

The NCCC panther, Wiggly Man and cheerleaders have partnered with the hospital to help kids make tie-dyed Community of Immunity shirts in youth sizes. They will be set up on the grass area near the concession stand as soon as the gates open at 5:30 pm Friday. The shirt booth will last until after halftime.

The first 100 people will receive gift bags that include information on the vaccine and a reusable cloth facemask.

The Pfizer vaccine is approved as a booster shot for those who previously received the Pfizer vaccine. It also is approved for patients as young as 12 years old. The Moderna vaccine is available, but has not yet been approved as a booster and is only available to those over 18. Patients can safely get the COVID-19 and flu vaccine at the same time.

The number of active COVID cases in Neosho County reached 160 at the end of 2020 before vaccines were available. At the start of May, 4,664 people were vaccinated and by the start of June there were no active cases.

Since the spread resumed with the delta variant, Neosho County has had 678 cases and 12 additional deaths. The two groups of cases total 47 deaths and 2,483 survivors, the Neosho County Health Department reported on Oct. 7.

That leaves 6,478 people unprotected with a potential of 116 additional deaths at the current mortality rate, even without breakthrough cases among people who are vaccinated or second infections among survivors.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are more than 90 percent effective, although the specific rate depends on the study, NMRMC Physician Assistant Beckie Manahan said.

She said that on average, people who get COVID-19 after being vaccinated have a history of compromised immunity, have had lengthy exposure to an active case, or received the vaccine eight or more months ago. 

Officials have said the vaccine reduces the severity of breakthrough cases, but a person with no symptoms can still transmit the disease to someone who is unvaccinated. Hence, the recommendation to continue to wear masks, wash hands frequently and social distance. 

Manahan said long-term cases where symptoms last weeks or months are becoming more common worldwide and in Neosho County. She also said officials are not certain when the next variant of concern will appear.

People who want to get a booster can contact the hospital’s COVID-19 hotline at 432-5592 if they have had the Pfizer vaccine and are 18 or older. 

Manahan said clinic staff will then tell them if they qualify.

 

 

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