Health directors across state express concerns about limited availability of vaccines

Published 1:42 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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As many vaccine allocations have been either reduced or eliminated in many counties across the state in recent days, the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors (NCALHD), in a letter to the Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services, expressed its concerns.

“This decision has left many communities without much needed vaccine to use for already scheduled events and appointments to serve our elderly and those at direct risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their health care work,” the letter said.

In the letter, which was dated Jan. 24, the health directors noted that NCDHHS told them to move all first doses of the vaccine “off the shelves” by the end of Monday and to start rescheduling vaccine appointments, even though many of them had been made weeks in advance.

They wrote that much of the vaccine inventory in local health departments that is to be removed “has been scheduled for use within days of receiving it.”

Stanly County Health Department is rescheduling vaccine appointments due to the limited supply of vaccines being distributed from the state to county governments.

Health Director David Jenkins said Monday that if people have an appointment scheduled beginning Wednesday with the health department for their first dose, they will be contacted and their appointment will be rescheduled.

When asked about how the rescheduling would affect people receiving their second dose, Jenkins said “the second dose of vaccinations are accounted for and sent separately from the fed to state to local, so those will continue to be administered.”

As of Monday evening, the health department had administered more than 2,500 vaccines to people in the community.

Additionally, the letter said that tens of thousands of doses are being diverted from local health departments to mega vaccination sites such as the Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America Stadium.

“This diversion has left many providers with little to no vaccine to fulfill their already scheduled appointments for health care workers and those 65 years and older,” the letter said, adding that the removal of vaccines away from local communities creates “inequitable distribution of this limited resource.”

Jenkins said the health department has received no new doses of the vaccine this week after previously receiving a steady weekly supply.

When asked how many weekly doses the department can expect going forward, Jenkins said “we currently do not know exactly how many doses we will receive.”

“While decisions for vaccine rollout are made by NC DHHS, the consequences of those decisions are felt at the local level,” the letter said. “All response implementation is local — in communities and neighborhoods where LHDs, hospitals and other providers have built foundations of trust, integrity, and service.”

On Monday the North Carolina Healthcare Association (NCHA) sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper expressing similar concerns about the vaccine rollout in the state.

The letter, written by NCHA President and CEO Stephen Lawler, said that while federal allocation of vaccines have remained consistent in recent weeks, “areas throughout the state have seen vastly different allocation amounts from week to week.”

More than 1.2 million doses have been distributed to North Carolina, though only about 54 percent (676,000) doses have been administered, according to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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