CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - While vaccinations are still underway in Mecklenburg County for those age 75 and up, that group will soon include those 65 and older.
County health leaders said Thursday they have spoken with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services about N.C.’s new guidance for vaccine distribution prioritization.
Medical Director Meg Sullivan said the county’s vaccine supply is still limited and that current appointments are booked until the end of January. She said the county will communicate when the expansion to those 65 to 74 years old will begin.
As of Wednesday evening, Mecklenburg County Public Health had administered over 5,200 doses of the Pfizer vaccine with close to another 500 doses to be administered by the end of Thursday.
Per N.C.’s new guidance, vaccines will now be distributed in order of five groups:
- Group 1: Healthcare workers with in-person patient contacts and long-term care staff and residents
- Group 2: Older adults, currently aged 75+, but will be expanding to 65+ per N.C. guidance. Supply still limited and current appointments are booked until the end of January.
- Group 3: Frontline essential workers. No timeframe for when this will be available.
- Group 4: Adults at high-risk for exposure and increased risk for extreme illness. Includes anyone ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, anyone incarcerated or living in closed-group settings who’s not already vaccinated, essential workers not included in other groups
- Group 5: Anyone who wants a vaccine not already in the other groups
The county started administering the vaccine doses to residents in Phase 1b, Group on Jan. 6, just a day after opening registration for appointments.
Eligible residents were advised to make appointments by phone or online starting Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The main county clinic is set up at Bojangles’ Coliseum off East Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, where vaccinations will take place 6 days a week. This clinic started on Monday, Jan. 4 for people in the state’s Phase 1a, which included long-term care residents and staff, as well as select healthcare workers.
Starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 5, appointments for those in Phase 1b, Group 1 were available to be made online or by phone. This group includes anyone age 75 or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
The appointments started at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6 and must be made in advance.
As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, there were no longer any available appointments for January. Mecklenburg County Health Department and hospitals are awaiting more vaccines to accommodate the demand in Phase 1b.
Phone appointments may be made by calling 980-314-9400 and selecting Option 3. Staff will attempt to return any messages left within 24-48 business hours.
County health leaders say they are continuing to open appointment slots. The number of slots opening depends on the Phase 1a appointments that continue to be filled as well as the amount of vaccine doses the county receives.
As record-breaking virus cases and hospitalizations continue across North Carolina, Mecklenburg County health leaders say they anticipate cases will remain high through mid February. “We anticipate seeing cases rise over the next couple of weeks based on activities that took place over the holiday season,” Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said.
Harris also said she has been vaccinated. Although she is not defined as a “front-line” worker, Harris said her arm was “available” and they didn’t want to waste any vaccine doses. Harris said she experienced minor soreness, and called the process “very easy.”
Atrium Health started vaccinations for Phase 1b last week, and Novant Health patients 75 and older are able to make appointments for the vaccine.
Harris said they are working with IT to improve the capacity for phone calls for appointments and online. She says all appointments filled up within half an hour of the registration opening Tuesday and have now opened up more appointments through end of January.
Many families said they were frustrated with the county’s technology not working for them and not having enough appointments available.
“He was trying to call until about 8:25 and he called me and said I cannot get through at all,” said Whitney Gray speaking about her 80 year old father. “He got a busy signal a lot of the time. Could not get through.”
When she logged on the website in the morning, she was unable to get an appointment. Although was later able to get one when the county added more available times.
Matthews resident Connie Green-Johnson said she is scheduled to get her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday morning. Green-Johnson said she will be getting the vaccine through Atrium Health, and she is very excited to be doing so.
“I got a lot of living to do. I’m an active person. I’m tired of just being so cooped up in this house,” the 79-year-old woman told WBTV during a Zoom interview Tuesday night.
Green-Johnson said she’s been taking precautions whenever she leaves the house during the pandemic. She described herself as a social person and said she longs for the day when she can gather with groups again.
“I want this over with and the only way to get this COVID virus under control, we have to be inoculated,” said the Matthews resident.
The county is scheduling around 325-350 vaccinations each day at Bojangles Coliseum, which includes both people in 1A and Group 1 of Phase 1B.
Medical Director Dr. Meg Sullivan said Tuesday the county has received 975 doses, along with 1,950 last week and another 1,950 doses soon, possibly Tuesday. They expect to have given 2,000 doses by end of the day.
Harris said the state is continuing to advocate for more vaccines and that Meklenburg County is continuing to get access to more vaccines. She added they will do their best to continue the current allocation.
Harris estimates there are over 20,000 people over 75 years old in the county. She said “it will take a while” for all those residents to get vaccinated given the county is only getting 2,000 doses a week.
She added they are trying to make vaccines available to marginalized communities, and at some point hope to be able to move outside of Bojangles’ Coliseum.
Following some confusion about the availability timeline, Mecklenburg County Health Public Health Director Gibbie Harris hosted a virtual Q&A session on Monday.
Mecklenburg County officials say during appointments, they will verify that residents have an appointment and will be verifying residents’ name and date of birth. “But we do not require any specific form of ID,” county officials say.
The COVID-19 vaccine is available in limited supply, with availability increasing through 2021 as supplies increase. Each vaccine requires two shots. The interval between doses for the Pfizer vaccine is 21 days; for Moderna, the interval is 28 days.
Instructions for the second dose will be provided after the first dose.
No walk-ins will be accepted at this time. Valid identification showing proof of age will be required.
For more information, click here.
Below are the phases and groups provided by NCDHHS.
- Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas
- Health care workers administering vaccine
- Long-term care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.
- Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
- Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age
Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.
Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:
- Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation
- Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.
- Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated. The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.
Phase 3: Students
- College and university students
- K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.
Phase 4: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.
Below is an interactive map from NCDHHS showing the amount of people who have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by county.
South Carolina counties are looking to begin Phase 1b in late winter.