Troup leaders say COVID-19 may have plateaued, vaccine supply low

Published 9:00 am Thursday, January 28, 2021

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton hosted a live discussion Wednesday with local healthcare professionals and leaders in the community on the current state of COVID-19 and the vaccine.

Thornton was joined by Wellstar West Georgia Medical Center President Coleman Foss, Chief of Staff Dr. Salman Fidahussein, Hospitalist Medical Director Dr. Melhim Bou Alwan, Pulmonologist Dr. Sandy Simmons, Hospitalist Dr. Shaundre Brown and District 4 Public Health Media Specialist Hayla Folden.

“We thought back in the summer we had hit some highs in terms of numbers of COVID patients that were in the hospital,” Foss said. “We were seeing 40 to 45 patients and not a whole lot on the vent at that time. Little did we know that later in the year we would see those numbers double.”

Foss said they have also seen a significant increase of patients on a ventilator.

“I know physicians are tired and weary, but we are starting to see the numbers down slightly,” Foss said. “We’re still pretty significant in terms of the number of patients that we have in house with COVID but those numbers are, at least at this point, the trajectory is down. We are encouraged that maybe we have plateaued and are on the good side of this curve.”

Bou Alwan said that it is and has been a big concern that the spread of the virus in the community has not been stopped.

“The latest spike that we’ve had was absolutely disastrous in terms of elements in life loss and all that,” Bou Alwan said. “This vaccine is a game changer. We have a player that can help us, help our team win the game. All the other players that we’ve enrolled so far have not really been successful.”

In the past month, the District 4 Public Health has been actively vaccinating first responders, healthcare workers and those 65 years old and older.

“I just want to say that one thing we don’t have right now is a limited number of people who want the vaccine,” Folden said. “We have more people wanting the vaccine than we have vaccine to give. We still find ourselves facing a large percentage of the population that are unaware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and find themselves going out and about and spreading the virus, without thinking that they may have COVID. That’s where we continue to see the spread of the disease.”

Folden said that district 4 public health staff is working non-stop to give vaccines and provide COVID-19 tests to the community.

District 4 Public Health, which includes the Troup County Health Department, is calling vaccine recipients to schedule their second doses.

Only those people who were vaccinated by District 4 or a county health department will be called. People who were vaccinated through a pharmacy or other private provider must coordinate with said providers to get their second dose.

Folden said the department is using an automatic system to call and text people using the phone number the recipient provided. The recipient should get a voicemail message if they miss the call. If the number is a cell phone, the recipient will also get a text.

“I wish we had more vaccine to offer,” Folden said. “In the state of Georgia, we have roughly 120,000 to 190,000 doses of vaccine available each week. We have over 2 million providers putting in requests for that vaccine. You see there’s a supply issue. There’s no way we can possibly have enough supply for each provider that’s wanting it or requesting it.”

District 4 Public Health appointments will open Thursday morning at 8 a.m. To make an appointment, call (762) 888-8180.

Folden asked the community to be patient because they have such a high demand and influx of calls.

The call center will not be open if they do not have vaccine available.

“We’re only making appointments for the vaccine we have on hand,” Folden said. “We’re making appointments for the second dose at the same time, so that we know that we’re securing your second dose.”

The health department now has a drop-down menu on the website where you can see which time you went and received your first dose, and it will tell you where to go and at what time.

“If we gave you a first dose, we have set aside vaccines for you to receive your second dose,” Folden said. “We’re making sure we cover both your first and second dose.”

Folden said they are currently trying to find more effective ways for people to sign up for a vaccine.

“There is a significant amount of population, even though you’re seeing that demand that Folden mentioned, there is a large amount of population that is skeptical,” Fidahussein said. “They’re still undecided, and they have real concerns around the vaccines. Those questions are real, they’re out there and it’s our responsibility as we’re doing it right now to make sure that we communicate.”

Fidahussein said that he had some slight side effects of fever and chills when he received his vaccine but that he would take that over losing his life or the long-term effects that COVID-19 brings.

“If I am willing to inject something in my body, you better believe that I’m telling every single patient of mine who qualifies that they need to do the same,” Fidahussein said.  “Because I have seen the alternative. Because I see what the virus can do to the patients every single day that I come to the hospital, and it is not good.”

The health officials recommended getting the vaccine even if you have already had COVID-19.

The recommendation is that you should wait up to 90 days after your positive test to get the vaccine.

“It is always better to have 95% protection than having absolutely no protection,” Fidahussein said. “95% protection means that it’s one in 20 chance that you can still get infected. You don’t want that one in 20 chance. God forbid you already had an infection, you have some immunity but the vaccine is still strongly encouraged.”