Mercer Health Department

PRINCETON — The Mercer County Health Department hopes to once again start scheduling vaccine clinics soon as some changes required by the state relating to a recent mixup in Moderna booster doses have been made.

On Nov. 2, the state Bureau of Public Health suspended any further vaccine clinics after it was discovered about 200 residents received a full dose of the booster rather than a half dose at an Oct. 28 clinic.

A team from the bureau visited the department on Nov. 9 to determine what changes need to be made to make sure it doesn’t happen again and filed the report, which included recommendations.

Bonnie Allen, Public Health Registered Nurse and interim administrator of the department, said the suggestions involved some online training with the staff and that has been done.

“It was not anything major,” she said, “just several educational items that we needed to do online and they have been completed.”

Former Administrator Roger Topping, who resigned after the incident, said the department was never directly notified by the state the doses should be half, not full.

Topping accepted responsibility for the mistake and the board of health accepted his resignation.

Dr. Ayne Amjad, state Health Officer and head of the bureau, said after the mistake was discovered personnel at the department should have known the correct dosage and placed a “temporary hold” on COVID vaccinations until any issues were resolved.

Amjad said it was not a “punitive” action and other departments around state had issues as well and were placed on hold.

Teams from the bureau visit those counties and make recommendations on how to make sure no further problems come up.

Amjad also said the full Moderna booster dose rather than the half should not be harmful and Allen said last week no serious issues were reported by those who received the full dose.

Allen said the state will be notified today that the recommendations the report made have been completed and she hopes the department will get the go-ahead soon to resume vaccine clinics.

“We have to wait for the state,” she said.

Residents continue to have other options for COVID vaccines, including pharmacies, Bluestone Health Center offices as well as primary care providers.

Being able to offer those vaccine clinics again, though, will come at at crucial time.

As the holiday season gets under way, COVID numbers here and around the state continue to rise and present concerns to state leaders.

Retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, head of the state Joint InterAgency Task Force, said last week the pandemic is not over and another surge is possible.

Those words were echoed by Gov. Jim Justice and Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, during Fridays pandemic briefing as both said it is crucial to get vaccinated.

“The more of you who get vaccinated, the less people will die,” Justice said, emphasizing the point it’s now a situation of the pandemic being for the unvaccinated, including those who do not get booster shots.

With colder weather and holidays coming up, officials warn of the likelihood of more spread, a scenario that happened last year resulting in a surge in December and January that pushed hospital capacity to the brink with patients unable to find available beds.

Marsh said there is a difference this year related to the far more contagious Delta virus and its propensity to infect youth.

“Children are more likely less symptomatic or asymptomatic, but they can spread it,” he said. “This has changed the dynamic of this pandemic. Children of all ages can be infected and can infect others very easily.”

The statistics show the rise in cases among youth.

During the previous seven days, according to the DHHR (Department of Health and Human Resources), of the 5,741 new COVID cases in the state, which are predominantly the Delta variant, almost 25 percent were 20 years old and younger. In fact, more than 9 percent of that group were between 5 and 11 years old.

Although vaccines are now available for those 5 and above, the number of youth getting vaccinated statewide continues to lag, with only 37.7 percent in the 12 to 15 age range and far less than that in the 5 to 11 age range, although the DHHR has not posted an update on that percentage.

In Mercer County, only 33.6 percent of those 12 to 15 have had at least one dose and 41.3 percent of the 16 to 20 age group, with no firm statistics yet on the 5 to 11 age group.

The trend toward youth getting infected more is reflected in Mercer County as well.

During the previous seven-day reporting period, more than 41 percent of the 235 new cases were 30 years old and younger, with 22 in the 5 to 11 age category.

Mercer County also continues to see a gradual rise in active cases, with 302 reported Monday, up from 265 a week before.

Statewide, almost 7,000 active cases were reported Monday, a number that dropped to about 6,000 before starting to rise again.

Those hospitalized with COVID also have started rising again after falling dramatically for several weeks then plateauing.

As of Monday, 539 COVID patients were in state hospitals with 179 in ICUs and 99 on ventilators, all increases.

Hoyer said last week these hospital numbers are troubling, as well as the increase in the RT value, which measures the rate of virus spread.

A score of 1.0 means that one person will infect one other person on average, a number that had dropped below 1.0 indicating a lesser spread.

However, on Friday it had risen to .99, and expected to once again cross the threshold of 1.0 and above, which means, Hoyer said, ”more cases, and more hospitalizations as well as more patients in ICUs and on ventilators.”

Deaths have also increased dramatically with the Delta variant, which is far more contagious than the original coronavirus and other variants.

Hoyer said Friday of the total 4,726 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began, 1,780 occurred during the first 310 days with 2,946 since then and 1,753 within the last 100 days, which is during the Delta variant surge. More died over the weekend, raising the total to 4,757 on Monday.

Getting vaccinated is the “one key we have,” he said.

Justice pointed out those latest deaths came amid the Delta surge and continue, even with the vaccine being available, because the vast majority of those deaths were among people who had not been vaccinated.

“Delta attacks those who are unvaccinated and a lot of people have died,” he said.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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