CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Questions remain following Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby’s recent email regarding “extra” COVID-19 vaccines.
Mayor Woodby sent the email Wednesday morning shortly before 3 a.m. to all county commissioners offering the vaccine to them and their families, even providing a time and location for the vaccination.
Currently, the Tennessee Department of Health remains in Phase 1 of vaccine distribution, which means the vaccine is available to in-patient and other high exposure health care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff as well as first responders. County commissioners do not fall into the Phase 1 criteria.
Due to HIPAA, it is uncertain if anyone did follow up on this offer and receive a vaccination.
News Channel 11 reached out to the Northeast Regional Health Department regarding the matter and received this statement:
“Tennessee is working to vaccinate our Phase 1 populations as quickly as possible. COVID-19 vaccine supplies remain extremely limited at this time, and approved providers of the vaccine are administering it in order of priority as described in our COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.”
Kristen Spencer, Northeast Regional Health Department Spokesperson
While the statement said “vaccine supplies remain extremely limited at this time,” officials neither confirmed nor denied whether or not additional vaccines were even offered to Woodby.
Northeast Regional Medical Director Dr. David Kirschke also commented on the matter, shedding some light on the idea of “extra” vaccine doses.
“I think the message that we did not change from our state vaccination plan phases. We were told our second shipment was coming early but not “extra”. That would have been enough for all the 1a1 that preregistered, but it did not come. We were told we could move beyond 1a1 (to 1a2, community providers) if supplies allow. This was all communicated late Tuesday after business hours, which may have caused confusion. As soon as we heard about this we corrected the misinformation that was apparently out there. But our policy and intention was always 1a1 until all first responders and front line HCWs were vaccinated.”
Dr. David Kirschke, Northeast Regional Medical Director
Kirschke followed that statement by saying he will take responsibility for any misunderstanding by staff.
News Channel 11’s Kelly Grosfield received this statement from Mayor Woodby:
“Late Tuesday evening, I received a phone call from our local health department personnel that Carter County would be receiving more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than originally expected. I was told that the supply was excess and did not affect the current vaccines allotted for the first responders and frontline health care workers who had already registered to receive the vaccine. I was asked to extend an invitation to members of the Carter County Commission and their high-risk family members to take the opportunity to get the vaccine, so I did just that. The health department also extended the same invitation to the Carter County and Elizabethton City school systems for their teachers and staff.
I hope that this will clear up the confusion that is circulating through our community. I have a deep gratitude for all our first responders and frontline health care workers. They are our heroes!”
Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby
Meanwhile, an online petition has launched and has been circulating social media calling for the removal of Mayor Patty Woodby.
“Now is not the time to be calling for removal from office and that sort of thing; that’s not our decision, ” said County Commissioner Mike Hill. “Our decision is to take any report of alleged fraud, misuse, or whatever and report that to the appropriate authorities.”
When we first spoke to commissioners on this matter on Christmas Eve, they referred to the email as “totally inappropriate” and now, days later, they’re still looking for answers.
“What was really surprising to me in that email was to find out that there was extra vaccine,” said Acuff. “It was very strange because we thought all those doses were accounted for and they were going to those individuals on the front lines.”
Acuff said he did not receive the vaccine and plans to be one of the last to get it, allowing his constituents the chance to get vaccinated before himself.
He said during a commission meeting on Monday night that Caroline Hurt, the director of the health department in Carter County, explained the phased rollout and who gets priority, and no commissioners were said to be in that first phase.
Hill and Acuff both said they reached out to the comptroller’s office regarding their concerns surrounding the email and as of late afternoon Monday, Hill said their concerns were received.
Questions remain surrounding this confusion, in fact, as of Monday afternoon, News Channel 11 learned that an identical email was sent out to Carter County Schools employees as well.
We have reached out to the health department regarding this email as well.
News Channel 11 will continue to follow this story as more details become available.