Success of mass vaccination event could lead to others

Health officials prepare to give more doses of COVID-19 vaccine during Saturday’s event at the Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center.

A total of 519 people were vaccinated Saturday in what was the largest vaccination event ever conducted in Hamblen County.

Sherrie Montgomery, director for the Hamblen County Health Department, said they could have handled even more.

“I think it went very well,” she said. “We were prepared to do a lot more.”

The event started earlier than planned on Saturday at the Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center as cars started lining up by 8 a.m. Officials planned to start vaccinating at 9 a.m., but instead started at 8:30 a.m.

Over the course of several hours, cars made their way through the drive through event to get first doses of vaccines. Those eligible to receive vaccines included first responders, healthcare workers, teachers and those 65 and older.

The event ended at 3 p.m.

Montgomery said after the event health department workers and other groups involved in the mass event left with confidence.

“We were confident we could do more,” she said. “We could do more.”

She said there were also things learned from the event.

One, is that they know they can do it.

She said its one thing to look at on paper if the logistics can be accomplished, but another seeing it in person.

There were also many firsts, such as utilizing a trailer bought for the health department to make it more mobile for events such as this. It was the first time the health department utilized its technology off site. It was also the first time using community volunteers.

The next mass vaccination event will be on March 27 to deliver second doses of the Moderna vaccine. She said she does not see another mass vaccination event coming immediately.

Montgomery said she thinks more phases would need to start opening for another mass vaccination event.