Norma Suddreth and her husband, Jack, have been diligently trying to avoid contracting COVID-19.

“We really have not been with even our children or our grandchildren for birthdays, for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, and they have totally supported us and understand that it’s been heartbreaking,” Suddreth said.

On Tuesday, the couple was vaccinated against COVID-19, a relief to both them and their children.

“They sent me a text message saying ‘yay,’ with five or six exclamation points on either side with a clapping and a sweetheart sign,” she said.

Vaccinations currently are being offered by the Caldwell County Health Department and Caldwell UNC Health Care for people in Group 1 of vaccination Phase1b, which is people over 75.

Norma Suddreth demurred when asked about her age but said, laughing, that she and Jack are “well over 75.”

Suddreth said she was impressed with her experience receiving the vaccine from Caldwell UNC Health Care. She said the process was quick and well organized.

“We went into this room, it was a humongous room. They had stations set up all along. They had organized distancing, everyone there had a mask on. If you didn’t have one, they gave you one. You had your shot almost immediately, they asked you a few questions, and then they directed you to another station where you sat for 15 minutes,” she said.

“Any time you get a shot, it’s not a particularly sweet experience, but I guess if you have to have one, that’s about as sweet as it could get,” she said.

Laura Easton, the CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care, told the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners Monday night that her goal is for half of the county, about 40,000 people, to be vaccinated within six months.

Because the vaccine comes in two doses, “that’s 80,000 inoculations,” Easton said. “And so to break that down, it’s 666 vaccines every day Monday through Friday for six months in order to get half our population vaccinated.”

Through Monday, Caldwell UNC Health Care had administered 1,180 doses of the vaccine, and officials expected to administer another 305 on Tuesday, Easton said.

Eighty percent of Caldwell UNC Health Care employees eligible for the vaccine have chosen to get it already, and the employees who have received it are receiving the second dose this week.

The vaccine has been studied by UNC professors and physicians they work with, “and they’ve been teaching us all along about safety and effectiveness, and so we all feel really comfortable, and that’s why we have such a high rate of taking the vaccination,” Easton said.

Easton said that her goal is for Caldwell UNC to administer 300 to 500 doses of the vaccine a day. Caldwell UNC is vaccinating only people who have a doctor in the Caldwell UNC network.

Everyone else must get their vaccination from the Caldwell County Health Department, which has so far administered more than 500 doses. The health department’s goal is to vaccine 100 people a day, said Paige Counts, the county’s public information officer.

The county now has an online portal where anyone can go to sign up for the waiting list for the vaccine, and the health department has added phone lines to deal with the high call volume.

Although the health department currently is scheduling appointments only for people age 75 or older, anyone can submit their information to the portal and be placed on a waiting list for when their group becomes eligible for a shot.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.

Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.