N.C. promises more vaccines for providers hit by shortfalls

N.C. promises more vaccines for providers hit by shortfalls
FILE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - North Carolina’s top public health official says coronavirus vaccine providers currently receiving little to no supply will soon have extra doses reserved for them.

The supplies for some providers have dwindled because of a shift in strategy favoring mass vaccination sites.

That has resulted in thousands of residents getting appointments postponed or canceled.

Doses that have been provided for a mass vaccination site at the Carolina Panthers football stadium this weekend will account for as much as one-fourth of the state’s weekly allotment.

State health director Mandy Cohen says providers aren’t allowed to turn away residents from other states who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

North Carolina’s COVID-19 vaccine providers are working continuously to make sure those who are eligible are vaccinated.

With that said, Cohen says the vaccine allocations provided to the state remain extremely limited.

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The state has exhausted 95 percent of North Carolina’s vaccine supply of first doses, which means they have to administer the remaining five percent before the next shipment arrives Wednesday.

“North Carolina vaccine providers have worked tirelessly to ramp up and vaccinate people under difficult situations,” Cohen said.

Currently, those eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina are people who are 65 years and older, healthcare workers who are in the front line of the pandemic and residents and staff at long-term living facilities.

Cohen says that more than 810,000 vaccine doses have been administered in North Carolina, and there have been 630,000 first doses administered, including 260,000 within the past week.

“After the federal government put all states on notice that future vaccine allocations would be based on how much supply our state had on hand, we charged our vaccine providers with exhausting North Carolina first supply doses, and our health providers stepped up,” Cohen said. “It’s an incredible achievement that demonstrates to the federal government that North Carolina is ready to take on more vaccine and we need additional vaccine.”

North Carolina receives just 120,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government each week.

That is divided to each county and given to those who are eligible to receive it.

Cohen says she understands the frustration that leads to appointments being canceled or people waiting a long time to get the vaccine.

“Demand for vaccine greatly exceeds our supply. Limited supply may result in wait times and sometimes delayed appointments,” Cohen said. “Everyone will have a chance when their priority group is eligible and vaccine supplies increase.”

Health officials say the vaccine providers must administer all of their allotment of vaccine before receiving the next shipment.

Cohen says health officials have communicated with all vaccine providers, outlining a process for allocations for the coming weeks to “ensure more transparency and certainty now that the state has largely exhausted the backlog of that vaccine supply.”

Cohen says 84,000 doses of the 120,000 first-dose allocations will be reserved for local vaccine providers. The remaining 36,000 go toward balancing vaccine distribution across the state’s counties.

The state is also making an effort to vaccinate those who are eligible and are at the most risk.

“Providers will be given a baseline amount of first doses that they can expect for the next three weeks,” Cohen said. “Vaccines will be allocated to each county based on population and then divided among the county’s providers based on their vaccine capacity.”

North Carolina health officials launched a new tool on the Department of Health and Human Resources website that gives people the latest information about the vaccine and helps people determine when they will be eligible.

As of Tuesday, North Carolina has reported 727,423 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with 8,776 deaths and 3,368 hospitalizations.

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