CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - A mass vaccination clinic opened Friday morning at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of a public-private partnership with the state of North Carolina, Honeywell, Atrium Health and Tepper Sports & Entertainment.
The goal of the partnership is to give the first dose of the vaccine to 1 million residents against COVID-19 by July 4.
Gov. Roy Cooper is supporting the goal, as it aligns with his Jan. 12 announcement of several mass COVID-19 vaccination sites being established across the state to boost rollout of the vaccine.
The first of several clinics opened at 7:30 a.m. Friday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where cars were lined up hours ahead of the opening.
“People are excited,” Greg Walter, Executive VP of Charlotte Motor Speedway, said. “They’re so excited they’re showing up 2 and 3 hours early. We started at 730 this morning and the first patient rolled up at 4:52am.”
The event is by appointment only from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
The partners involved say Friday was a success.
By mid-afternoon, a few people had allergic reactions, which is why they require a 15-minute observation period after the shot is administered. Officials say those people are expected to be okay.
According to Honeywell, operations are running smoothly and ahead of schedule.
“The capacity is higher than we anticipated so that’s a very good sign for next week,” Torsten Pilz, SVP of Honeywell, said.
People exiting the vaccination site told WBTV it was a seamless process.
For Thomas and Joyce Isom, the experience was emotional.
“We had a great loss,” Isom said. “My brother passed from covid in April. My mom was 84, she beat covid, but she actually passed from heart failure.”
Getting the vaccine is a blessing their family members did not live to receive.
They hope others do not hesitate to get the vaccine when it’s their turn.
“We’ve lost family and that’s very hard,” she said. “So we want to do it for them too, we really do.”
As of Friday, all appointments for the weekend were booked. Over the course of three days, Friday through Sunday, Atrium expects to give the first dose of the vaccine to over 16,000 people that are age 65 and older. Those who wish to book a future appointment and do not have a MyAtriumHealth account, can create one online.
Bank of America Stadium will open by appointment only for vaccinations next weekend. Officials say details will be coming in the next few days.
This is the first of several vaccination clinics that are expected to open in the next several months.
Vaccines are rolling out across North Carolina at a time of record-breaking coronavirus numbers and hospitalizations.
“In collaboration with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, these organizations aim to unleash their combined strength to vaccinate as many frontline workers, members of the general public and of underserved communities as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the release said.
Atrium Health will serve as the health system to offer mass vaccination events in Charlotte and surrounding areas.
The partners plan to work together to administer the vaccine and offer a venue for a safe and efficient initiative.
“This is a natural collaboration, public private partnership that is going to greatly speed up the process of our communities getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Scott Rissmiller the Chief Physician Executive at Atrium Health.
Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Greg Walter said while the goal is hefty, they’re more than prepared to get the job done.
“We’ve been looking over the last ten months how do we serve our community better given the assets and resources we have and this yet just another way to do that,” Walter.
“Getting vaccines in people’s arms as quickly and equitably as possible is a top priority for North Carolina,” Cooper said. “Partnerships with businesses, health providers and government like this can help get it done.”
Gibbie Harris, public health director for Mecklenburg County, says the only way to get the virus behind us is for people to be vaccinated. “We look forward to working with our partners to make this happen,” Harris said, with hopes of exceeding the goal of giving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 1 million people by July.
More information about Atrium Health’s vaccination plans for the public, including frequently asked questions, can be found at AtriumHealth.org/COVID19Vaccine