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‘We’re still not where we want to be’: Stanly still lagging behind others when it comes to vaccinations

When it comes to vaccinating people against COVID-19, Stanly County appears to be lagging behind most of the other counties in the region.

With 31 percent of residents fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, only Rowan County (30 percent fully vaccinated) has vaccinated a smaller percentage of the population, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The 33 percent of people who are partially vaccinated is also one of the lowest rates in the area.

It’s not just the larger, more urban counties like Mecklenburg (46 percent fully vaccinated) and Cabarrus (39 percent fully vaccinated) that are outpacing Stanly when it comes to protecting residents from the virus; smaller rural counties like Montgomery and Anson — each with less than half the population of Stanly — have fully vaccinated 33 percent of their residents.

Stanly also trails each of its four peer counties — Granville, Haywood, Lee and Pender — by several percentage points when it comes to vaccinations. The closest to Stanly is Pender, with 37 percent of its residents fully vaccinated.

“We’re still not where we want to be,” in terms of people getting vaccinated, Health Department Director David Jenkins said.

Though people were eager to get vaccinated when vaccines were first made available to the public towards the beginning of the year, the health department has seen a decline in demand in recent months and as a result has stopped receiving weekly doses from the state. At the end of May, for example, 32 percent of residents had been partially vaccinated; as of July 7, that percentage has barely ticked up to 33 percent.

The drop in vaccinations comes as the Delta variant continues to spread across the country. Jenkins said there’s been a recent uptick in cases and hospitalizations — with 11 new cases and six hospitalizations over the holiday weekend — which is likely due to the emergence of the Delta variant. The county’s positive test rate increased to 3.4 percent last week, up from 1.9 percent the week before.

“We still have a large unvaccinated population and any time the virus comes into a new host, it has a chance to manifest into something else…and obviously, that’s where we have our concerns,” Jenkins said.

The health department has administered more than 13,000 first doses and 12,000 second doses. The department is currently receiving new vaccines on an as-needed basis.

When it comes to vaccines, “we certainly have more supply than demand unfortunately,” Jenkins said.

While the vast majority of Stanly’s senior citizens — which comprise almost 20 percent of the total population — are fully vaccinated (65 percent of people 75 and older and 61 percent of people 65 to 74), the younger age groups seem to be less receptive. Only 35 percent of people 50 to 64 and 20 percent of people 25 to 49 are fully vaccinated.

But vaccination disparities don’t just exist between Stanly and other local counties. U.S. Census tract data provided by the state reveals vaccination discrepancies within areas of Stanly.

In the northeast section of the county which includes Badin, for example, 45 percent of residents 12 and older have been vaccinated — the highest percentage in the county. But in the northernmost area that includes Richfield and Misenheimer, only 24 percent of residents have been vaccinated, by far the lowest percentage.

Of Stanly’s 13 census tracts, all but two of them featured vaccination rates higher than 30 percent; two located in Albemarle (one that includes downtown and the other that includes the area around Chuck Morehead Park) are both near 40 percent.

The data was last updated June 1, so the percentages have likely improved, but not by much. About 18,000 people were fully vaccinated as of that date. As of Wednesday, the number has increased to about 19,500.

Here is a look at each of the 13 tracts and the total vaccination percentage:

  • Tract 9302 which includes Badin: 45.2 percent of residents;
  • Tract 9312.01 which includes downtown Albemarle: 39.6 percent;
  • Tract 9303 which includes area around Chuck Morehead Park: 38.0 percent;
  • Tract 9308.01 which includes Locust: 34.3 percent;
  • Tract 9305 which includes eastern area of Albemarle: 34.1 percent;
  • Tract 9308.02 which includes Stanfield: 32.7 percent;
  • Tract 9311 which includes Norwood: 32.5 percent;
  • Tract 9312.02 which includes southwest Albemarle: 32.0 percent;
  • Tract 9310 which includes Aquadale: 30.5 percent;
  • Tract 9309 which includes Oakboro: 30.3 percent;
  • Tract 9301.02 which includes New London: 30.0 percent;
  • Tract 9307 which is south of N.C. Highway 73 and includes Millingport Road: 29.1 percent;
  • Tract 9301.01 which includes Richfield: 24.1 percent.
The county has had roughly 8,000 cumulative cases since last spring along with 143 deaths, according to health department data.
Statewide, there have been almost 14 million tests conducted resulting in more than 1 million cases. More than 13,000 people have died.

The health department is providing Pfizer vaccines to walk-ins and to those with appointments from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Anyone interested in getting vaccinated can call the department’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 980-323-0205.

To encourage more people to get vaccinated, the health department is giving out $25 gift cards to those getting their first shot.

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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