The Knox County Health Department Monday morning will officially open its own COVID-19 vaccine clinic.

County health officer Dr. Alan Stewart on Wednesday reported to members of the health board during their regular monthly meeting that they have secured a clinic site inside the community building adjacent to Community United Methodist Church at 1548 S. Hart St. Road and will vaccinate the first non-healthcare worker, a 100-year-old woman, promptly at 10 a.m.

State officials on Wednesday announced that coronavirus vaccinations will be made available to Indiana residents 80 and older beginning today as they continue to expand access.

The vaccination of Indiana healthcare workers began on began Dec. 16 and was extended to nursing home residents and staffers just last week.

So far, however, only about 20% of local healthcare workers have chosen to be vaccinated, according to officials at Good Samaritan.

State health officials also said Wednesday that they plan to start offering vaccinations in the coming weeks next to those 70 and older and then 60 and older. Those age groups make up 93% of Indiana’s more than 8,700 coronavirus-related deaths since March.

The website where those 80 and over can make an appointment for a vaccine officially went live this morning and can be found at ourshot.in.gov.

Stewart, too, said in the coming days, state officials will launch a 211 number where people can call, enter their county of residence and choose a vaccination site and time.

For now, there will be two locations in Knox County, the clinic at Good Samaritan, which is located inside an old rehab unit just inside the Sixth Street entrance, as well as the church community building.

As more vaccines are available, Stewart hopes to open two more locations, likely one at the Knox County Fairgrounds, if possible, and another at the Monroe City Blue Jeans Center, better serving both the northern and southern portions of the county.

The church community center, he explained, was already targeted as an ideal vaccination clinic in early 2020 as local healthcare and emergency response officials looked to host a mock mass vaccine delivery drill, one the actual pandemic thwarted.

“We already had floor plans for that space, and it’s an ideal location,” he said. “There is plenty of parking. We’ll have EMTs there, and there is also wifi.”

Stewart said on Wednesday that the health department already had 100 local residents over the age of 80 on a waiting list.

He also planned to work with nearby Colonial Assisted Living to see those residents brought over to the Hart Street clinic for vaccinations next week.

Also being vaccinated, he said, are those who live in “group homes” or “communal living” settings, such as those affiliated with KCARC.

Good Samaritan continues to get weekly shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, but will soon receive its first delivery of 500 Moderna vaccines, ones that are easier to store as they don’t require ultra-cold storage.

Those Moderna vaccines, Stewart said, will be shifted to the health department’s vaccine clinic. The Pfizer ones will stay on site at the hospital so they can be stored properly.

The board also on Wednesday approved the hiring of two additional full-time employees, non-medical staff, Stewart said, to help coordinate vaccination efforts.

They already, with the county council’s blessing, hired a new full-time COVID-19 nurse, retired Good Samaritan nurse Betty Lankford, and Stewart said she was doing “an outstanding job.”

Those three workers, he said, combined with numerous volunteers have exceeded his expectations.

“I really think we’ll be in good shape moving forward,” Stewart told the health board, adding that the health department’s call for volunteers — both to give the vaccinations and to register people upon arrival — had been excellent.

“Really, anyone we’ve asked has ben more than willing to come help,” he said.

He also, he said, will be utilizing student nurses at Vincennes University to deliver the vaccine.

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