Pittsboro, NC – National Public Health Week (NPHW) is April 5th through 11th this year, a time to recognize those individuals who contribute to public health on a small and large scale. The Chatham County Public Health Department (CCPHD) is celebrating NPHW this year by recognizing the tremendous work and dedication of department staff, community partners and volunteers who have played critical roles in the COVID-19 vaccination process.
“Without the effort and commitment of so many people, staff, partners, and volunteers alike, we would not be able to vaccinate the Chatham community against COVID-19 and beat this pandemic,” said Chatham County Public Health Director Mike Zelek. “This is the most critical public health intervention of our time, and these individuals have done historical work.”
Each of the CCPHD’s four divisions has played a critical role in the department’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
The Clinical & Community Health Services division has led vaccination drawing and administration efforts, along with registration, data entry, inventory management and the recruitment and management of medical volunteers. This division also houses the public health nurses that have given thousands of doses at CCPHD events.
The Health Promotion & Policy division has led the department’s outreach, education and communications efforts, as well as managing and staffing the COVID-19 vaccine infoline, scheduling and refreshments at vaccination clinics. This division has also been the driving force behind the department’s equity framework and the Chatham Health Alliance’s Community Hub events.
The Environmental Health division has led the planning and coordination for mass vaccination events, including preparation of supplies and forms and guiding safety and infection control efforts on site. The Administration division has led oversight and general direction of vaccination efforts, including financial management and translation of needed materials.
The department has also received assistance from many employees across Chatham County government’s various departments as runners, data entry, appointment schedulers and infoline operators. The CCPHD is grateful to staff from Chatham County Libraries, the Chatham County Department of Social Services, Chatham County Court Services and the Chatham County Manager’s Office who served in various roles. The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office and the Chatham Community Emergency Response Team helped guide traffic and served as security at vaccination sites. Chatham County Emergency Management and staff at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center helped organize on-site logistics and have been key partners in leading response efforts throughout the pandemic. Chatham Transit helped bring individuals to vaccination events who otherwise would not have been able to get life-saving shots.
Additionally, the CCPHD is grateful to members of the NC National Guard who have assisted with department vaccination efforts, both at mass vaccination events and smaller clinics across Chatham County.
Public Health work cannot be done without community partners whose main function may or may not have anything to do with health, and that was proven especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic and now with vaccination efforts.
The need for face coverings early in the pandemic was answered quickly. The Chatham Health Alliance organized two drives for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including face coverings. #Masks4Medicine collected PPE for essential workers, particularly those in healthcare, while #ChathamMaskMakers collected PPE including masks for the general population. These efforts led to the donation of tens of thousands of masks. The Chatham Health Alliance wants to recognize two groups in particular: Lazar Industries, a furniture manufacturer in Siler City, which made more than 8,000 masks through repurposing part of their operations early in the pandemic, and the sewing circle at Fearrington Village, which made thousands of face coverings without the aid of an assembly line and industrial sewing machines.
“We will never be able to adequately recognize everyone who has played a role,” added Zelek. “However, by highlighting the contributions of many who have given their time and energy to this important cause, we hope the Chatham community will better understand what public health is and why it takes a community to do this critical work. There is no better time than National Public Health Week to do this.”
The CCPHD has relied on community partners, including the Chatham County Council on Aging, Chatham County Schools, El Vinculo Hispano/Hispanic Liaison, and the Chatham County Partnership for Children, to make vaccination events a success, including linking residents to appointments. The CCPHD has also worked with several faith communities and businesses to host COVID-19 vaccination events on their premises. These organizations include: Roberts Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Goldston, St. Julia Catholic Church in Siler City, Roca Fuerte Baptist Church in Pittsboro and Brookwood Farms in Siler City, among others. These events would not have been possible without the involvement of leadership at these facilities and community organizations.
The CCPHD would also like to thank Chatham County leadership, including the Chatham County Board of Health, the County Manager’s Office, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, and the Chatham County Board of Education, for their support throughout the pandemic, including with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the CCPHD’s vaccination plans, visit chathamcountync.gov/coronavirusvaccine. To learn more about the Chatham County Public Health Department, visit chathamcountync.gov/publichealth or .facebook.com/chathamhealth. For more on how Chatham County’s residents have gone above and beyond in service during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit chathamcountync.gov/chathamtogether.