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Members of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations on Jan. 6, under Phase 1a of vaccine distribution. Phase 1b began on Jan. 19, with a focus on Delawareans ages 65 or older.

As Delaware’s coronavirus vaccination plan transitions to Phase 1B, focusing on those 65 or older, Gov. John Carney, during a virtual town hall-style meeting this week, said he is hopeful “an ordinary way of life” will resume in the near future.

“People have been isolated. People have not been able to see their loved ones. We’re ready for this. We’re ready for this vaccine. I can assure you, as your governor who has just been sworn in, I am going to make this my priority,” he said the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 19. Earlier that day, he had been sworn in for a second, four-year term, saying in his inaugural address, “We’ll continue to deal with the crisis at hand, but we will also plan for the future. We will march forward with optimism and hope.”

“Our goal is to get as many Delawareans vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible. That’s how we’ll beat this virus, get back to normal and rebuild. The reality is that will take some time and some patience, so in the meantime, let’s do what works. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Avoid gatherings. Stay vigilant,” the governor said.

“We had some successful vaccination events,” he added.

“We determined we would do that in a week, almost a 10-day spread, to get as many vaccines as we could out there. We had about 10,000 out over the weekend at pods at the DMV in Kent County. We reached out into Sussex County,” he said.

Senior citizens were also vaccinated at senior centers in Georgetown and Dover.

“The word got out that we were doing these pods. Lots of people came out, 65 and older, and we vaccinated them in those venues,” he said.

He praised volunteers and said he was among them, helping those with limited mobility climb steps.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to volunteer. You see really wonderful people,” he said.

Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, who was with Carney at the virtual town hall meeting, said it takes about 150 people to man such events, so volunteers and members of the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps are essential.

“We need people who can help register people. We need people to screen people,” she said, urging Delaware residents to volunteer.

During this phase of vaccine distribution, there won’t be enough vaccine for all 200,000 people who meet the qualifications for Phase 1b, so members of an ethics committee made recommendations.

“We’re focused on saving lives and preventing hospitalizations. We worry about our hospital capacity,” Rattay said, adding that healthcare workers and EMS providers are critical and must be vaccinated first.

Phase 1b includes those 65 or older, and frontline essential workers including firefighters, police, correctional officers, teachers and education staff (including childcare providers), U.S. postal workers, those involved in food manufacturing and agriculture, transportation employees and grocery store workers. Efforts will also continue to vaccinate Phase 1a healthcare personnel and nursing home residents and staff who have not yet been vaccinated.

Five drive-through vaccination events have been planned, as well as events for remaining Phase 1a personnel, on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Delaware City Division of Motor Vehicles and on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 23 and 24, at both the Delaware City and Georgetown DMV locations.

Vaccinations will be given by appointment only. Delaware residents 65 or older can register at de.gov/covidvaccine. Registration began at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Those registering can expect to receive a message that they will be notified when an appointment becomes available. At this time, the system does not allow for registration for those younger than 65. Appointment links are assigned to specific individuals and may not be shared.

Carney said people receiving the first dose of the two-dose regimen is the priority right now, and that the second dose will be administered later. Rattay said everyone will receive a card when they are vaccinated, with information about the type of vaccine received and when the next dose is due. E-mail reminders will be sent.

Rattay said registration for Phase 1c should begin in a few weeks.

Those who make appointments should dress for the appointment so that their upper arm can be easily exposed, because they won’t be able to get out of vehicles to remove a coat or shirt. Those who have received a flu, shingles or other vaccination recently will not be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccination for 14 days afterward.

Rattay said drivers’ licenses will be checked at vaccination events, to be sure only those in the approved categories are being vaccinated.

With limited vaccination doses available from the federal government, it could take weeks or months for all 200,000 Phase 1b individuals to be vaccinated, officials noted. Vaccination availability will include:

  • Kindergarten to 12th grade teachers — The Department of Education will announce vaccination options for the week of Jan. 25. Carney said many school nurses have already been vaccinated because they are frontline healthcare workers.
  • Childcare workers The Department of Education’s Office of Child Care Licensing will provide vaccination options the week of Jan.25.
  • Correctional officers The Department of Correction began receiving vaccines earlier this month. Officers performing Phase 1a functions have been offered vaccines, as have a small number of inmates and officers older than 65 with serious medical conditions. DOC will continue receiving vaccine as supply allows and vaccinate inmate and officers in order based on age and health condition.
  • Other frontline essential workers Vaccination planning is under way in partnership with the Department of Public Health and Division of Small Business. The Division of Small Business will release information in the coming days. See Covid19faq@delaware.gov for more information.
  • Pharmacies — A list of pharmacies taking COVID-19 vaccine appointments will be available at de.gov/covidvaccine beginning in the week of Jan. 25. The list will grow as additional pharmacies receive doses. Pharmacies are expected to be a primary choice for vaccinations as more vaccine becomes available, but as with other methods, they will have limited doses in the early part of the effort. At this time, pharmacies are being asked to limit their efforts in their stores to Phase 1a and Phase 1b individuals 65 or older.
  • Primary-care providers Vaccines will be available to those 65 or older from some primary-care and specialty-care providers, such as medical practices, urgent-care sites and Federally Qualified Health Centers. Some providers will contact patients and others may invite the public to request appointments. Medical providers who wish to vaccinate must enroll in the state’s immunization system. See de.gov/covidvaccine for more information.

DPH and partners have scheduled five drive-through vaccination events for those 65 or older, as well as for remaining Phase 1a personnel, on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Delaware City Division of Motor Vehicles, and on Jan. 23 and 24 at both the Delaware City and Georgetown DMVs. Vaccinations are by appointment only.

The registration system has two steps. Individuals request appointments at de.gov/covidvaccine and are placed on a waiting list. When appointments become available, invitation e-mails will be sent so appointments can be scheduled. The invitations cannot be shared.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.