Montgomery urges those with vaccine appointments to arrive on time, not early

Local health officials are trying to get a message out to the public.

Don’t worry, vaccines are not going to run out.

Sherrie Montgomery, Hamblen County Health Department director, said people arriving too early have cause some traffic concerns and a lot of it is because people think vaccinations will run out, so they are trying to get in line as soon as possible.

“We’re not going to schedule an appointment we don’t have a vaccine for,” Montgomery said.

The health department started drive through vaccinations last Friday. Since then, the city has seen a backup in traffic on North Jackson Street near the health department during lunchtime when health workers break for lunch.

Local officials said many are lining up on the street, which serves as the entrance to the drive-thru, almost an hour before their appointments.

Montgomery stressed that there is no need to arrive early for an appointment and arriving on time will suffice.

The Hamblen County COVID-19 Task Force met Wednesday afternoon and spoke about the drive-thru events, which started last Friday.

Montgomery said the drive through events have been a success with the public who like being able to sit in their cars while getting vaccinated.

But, she also acknowledged there are logistical problems to negotiate. She said the past events have utilized a lot of resources, such as using Morristown police officers for traffic control. Montgomery said they are aware the police department cannot be on site for every event, so the health department has tried conducting traffic control itself.

“We realize if we did this every day, we wouldn’t have all the support,” she said.

Now, Tennessee National Guardsmen assigned to the health department are attempting to conduct traffic control.

She said the first attempt the health department conducted traffic control was on Tuesday.

She said some kinks had to be worked out, but Wednesday seemed to go much better.

“We were determined to try to do it on our own,” she said.

The health department will continue to keep trying to do drive-thru events on the scheduled times for vaccination appointments throughout the day.

The health department is also closing in on administering the rest of its Moderna vaccinations. There are two approved vaccinations for usage – Moderna and Pfizer. Both vaccines require two doses.

The health department first started using Moderna vaccines in December, which requires those vaccinated to come back in 28 days. The health department then switched to Pfizer, which has a wait time of 21 days. Because of the different days, there has been crossover in giving second doses over the last week. Montgomery said the rest of the Moderna second doses should be done by today.

“After Friday, we will have all of our second doses in for the first big batch,” she said.

The vaccinations come as the number of active cases have dropped substantially. The number of active cases are at 222, the lowest since the beginning of November, according to state records. The number of deaths reported are at 144, which was a substantial increase from the start of the year.

Health officials said they are seeing a lower number of COVID-19 related cases.

Gordon Lintz, president and CAO of Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare Systems, said the hospital has seen a decrease in the number of COVID-related cases and most of normal operations for the facility is ongoing.

“We’re thankful it did not go up,” Lintz said.

Deanine Diamond, with HealthStar Physicians, said they are seeing the same thing.

“Our testing has gone down dramatically as well,” she said.