Health officials in Bay County are encouraging residents to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine on the Bay County Health Department website.

Health officials say the Health Department is slowly but sure getting through the Tier 1A vaccination list. The list includes healthcare workers, emergency medical service workers, long-term care, assisted living and skilled nursing facility staff and residents.

Bay County Health Director Joel Strasz says while there are still people in the 1A category, the county is moving forward with contacting Tier 1B residents. Those include frontline essential workers in critical infrastructure such as education and police forces and those who are 65 years and older.

However, Strasz says there has been an overwhelming demand for the vaccine while the supply is limited.

“Right now, we have on hand about a thousand doses of vaccine. We plan on getting about a thousand more this week. But even with that, we have over 10,000 people that have registered and 2,000 people that have left contact information.”

Strasz says even if there were enough supplies to go around, it would take five weeks to vaccinate 5,000 people a week. The county normally does around 5,000 vaccinations in a year.

Logistically, vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans in a timely manner is a daunting task. Coupled with vaccine shortages from the federal government on down to the local level, the process becomes even slower as local health departments and hospitals wait for more doses to arrive.

Complicating matters, according to Strasz, are people calling the health department or other agencies by phone, emailing county officials or trying to register online more than once. Strasz is urging people to be patient while the rollout continues. He asks people not call or email county agencies requesting vaccine appointments. Strasz says a phone bank will be set up to take calls for registration some time this week.

Strasz does, however, expect the vaccine distribution from the federal government to pick up.

“We expect in the coming weeks that the federal system is going to open up significantly, and that will really open up the supply of vaccines throughout the community… There will (also) be more providers other than the Bay County Health Department that will be providing the vaccine to persons in need.”

Strasz encourages residents to keep checking the Bay County Health Department website for further updates on the COVID-19 vaccine.