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COVID-19 vaccine to be free as N.C. health officials prepare for distribution

Updated: Dec. 1, 2020 at 3:56 PM EST
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina health officials are coming up with a plan to distribute COVID-19 the vaccine once it becomes approved and cleared.

Early results show that two vaccines – from Moderna and Pfizer – to be highly effective.

Once those vaccines are ready to be distributed, Gov. Roy Cooper says North Carolina will be ready.

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Posted by WBTV News on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

As coronavirus hospitalizations continue to rise, with a reported record-high 2,033 on Tuesday, Cooper said vaccines should be cleared soon.

“We have newfound hope in the development for promising vaccines,” Cooper said. “Moderna and Pfizer have both produced vaccines with remarkable early results, better than health experts had hoped for.”

The governor said the state is planning to receive a vaccine from Pfizer, which has already been said to be 95 percent effective. That vaccine must be stored in ultra-cold storage.

Pfizer said that new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective, is safe and also protects older people most at risk of dying — the last data needed to seek emergency use of limited shot supplies as the catastrophic outbreak worsens across the globe.

Cooper said vaccines will be free to people, whether or not they have health insurance.

Also, Cooper said the vaccine will be at limited availability, at first, therefore it will be initially given to hospitals and health departments.

Healthcare workers, those at long-term living facilities, the elderly, and those significantly at-risk will be given vaccine priority.

“Our job is to get them to people as quickly and effectively as possible,” Cooper said. “North Carolina is working hard to hit the ground running once these vaccines are approved and shipped.”

Cooper said, for months, the state’s department of health and human services has been developing a plan to distribute these vaccines.

Health officials hope the vaccine is available in the next few weeks, and the goal is to have it available to everyone not long after.

“There is still a lot of work to get the vaccines from the manufacturers to our healthcare providers, like hospitals and health departments, and then ultimately to each of us,” Cooper said. We are a big state though, with rural areas that stretch for hundreds of miles. Every person is important and we will work hard to overcome the challenges that our geography presents.”

Cooper said once the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccine, an independent review board with review the data.

Cooper said he expects about 84,800 doses of the vaccine in its first batch.

N.C. Department Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen believes the second batch of vaccines will be sent shortly after the first.

“That will be a second allocation,” Cohen said. “The federal government tends to do weekly allocations of the vaccine. We don’t know at what level and how many doses we will be getting on an on-going basis.”

Health officials believe more widespread vaccines should be available to the public in early 2021.

“These vaccines have made progress so quickly because of significant improvements in science and technology all while following safety procedures,” Cooper said.

As of Tuesday, North Carolina has had 367,395 coronavirus cases since March. There have also been 5,284 deaths.

Cohen said, in comparison, about 1,500 people in North Carolina have died of the flu in the past 10 years.

“In these 11 months, COVID has killed more than three times that number,” Cohen said. “These are more than trends and numbers. They are real people.”

Cooper urges North Carolinian to take the vaccination.

Once more vaccines are distributed to North Carolina, Cooper reiterated that he plans to get vaccinated.

“When it becomes my turn, I will be ready to roll up my sleeve,” Cooper said.

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