State updates its vaccine allocation strategy to more efficiently distribute doses to providers

Published 2:36 pm Thursday, January 28, 2021

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The state’s Department of Health and Human Services has changed how it is distributing vaccine doses to each of its vaccine providers, including the local health departments, to better make sure it’s better prepared whenever the federal government sends weekly allotments.

In a letter this week sent to vaccine providers across the state, DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said that DHHS will guarantee to vaccine providers “a minimum baseline allocation each week for the next three weeks.” Vaccines will be allocated to each county based on population.

The state expects to continue receiving 127,125 weekly doses, of which 89,550 will be reserved for vaccine providers, such as the Stanly County Health Department, while the other 37,575 will be prioritized for several efforts, including providing additional allocations to counties that in the past weeks have received less than other counties and to counties with larger populations over 65 and with large historically marginalized populations.

Wendy Growcock, public education specialist with the health department, said the department has been allocated 300 vaccine doses to be used for the next three weeks. The shipments should arrive each Tuesday or Wednesday.

“The distribution strategy has enabled us to plan how many doses we are able to administer each week,” Growcock said. “We hope that supply will soon increase so we can vaccinate our residents more efficiently.”

The local health departments and other vaccine providers previously didn’t know how many vaccine doses they would receive from week to week. With more specifics regarding how many doses they will receive going forward, providers can better plan the best ways to efficiently distribute the doses to the public.

DHHS typically receives the state’s weekly allocation from the federal government on Tuesday afternoon and its goal is to provide the weekly allocations to the vaccine providers by Thursday evening. Providers must formally accept or decline the allocation by Friday, with the first doses of the vaccine set to arrive at the provider’s location the following Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Stanly County Health Department has been rescheduling vaccination appointments this week after receiving no new vaccine doses from the state. Instead, most of the state’s doses have gone to mass vaccination events, like the one that occurred last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This was due to the federal government indicating they might reduce future allocations if states had larger amounts of unused supply. Appointments will continue to be rescheduled for next week and the week after.

“We had to make difficult allocation decisions in order to clear our backlog of first doses and provide strong proof that North Carolina can exhaust our weekly first dose allotments and give vaccinations quickly,” Cohen wrote.

An issue that many states continue to face is that demand for the vaccine is vastly outstripping supply.

“The biggest problem we face right now is that we have millions of people who need it (vaccines) but only thousands of shots,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

The county health department has currently administered more than 2,800 vaccines.

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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