CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The Bojangles Coliseum mass COVID-19 vaccination site will slowly wind down operations in the coming weeks, Mecklenburg Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said Tuesday.
The announcement comes as the supply of vaccine — tightly constrained just weeks ago — has dramatically expanded in Charlotte and throughout the country. Harris said larger community vaccine clinics, including those run by Charlotte hospitals, are experiencing a “little bit of difficulty” with booking appointments and dealing with no-shows.
“We feel like it’s time for the Bojangles Coliseum site to close down,” Harris told county commissioners Tuesday evening.
Walk-in slots at Bojangles Coliseum are open for first and second doses through May 22, Harris said. This week, the coliseum will be open Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The county is administering the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, after taking a pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. All of the COVID-19 vaccine are available at no cost to the recipient.
Almost 22% of Mecklenburg residents are fully vaccinated, and 34% are at least partially vaccinated as of late Monday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
StarMed, a key vaccine partner for the county, will continue running two large sites and may soon open another, Harris said. The Mecklenburg County Public Health clinic location at 249 Billingsley Road will keep administering vaccines, too.
Atrium Health is offering walk-in COVID-19 shots at Bank of America Stadium on Wednesday until 2:30 p.m., according to the hospital system.
And Novant Health vaccines are available at a number of Charlotte-area locations including:
▪ 6070 East Independence Blvd. Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
▪ 3149 Freedom Drive Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
▪ 17220 Northcross Drive in Huntersville Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
SLOWING DEMAND FOR VACCINE
A lack of urgency, particularly among younger residents, could partially explain the slowing vaccine demand. Harris said Mecklenburg is discussing partnering with local bars and breweries to host possible clinics.
“We’re looking at taking vaccines where it’s easy and accessible,” Harris said. “We’re looking at all options at this point.”
Officials are also trying to understand the nuanced reasons behind vaccine hesitancy, using influencers and trusted community leaders to help Charlotte grow closer to gaining herd immunity.
There are 64 providers in Mecklenburg receiving direct vaccine allocations from the state. Public Health is trying to identify where equity gaps still persist, Harris said.
Health officials are pursuing federal funding to tackle COVID-19 disparities, Harris said. The county could be eligible to receive roughly $4.9 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could be used to improve data analysis and bolster grassroots efforts to reach marginalized communities disproportionately impacted by the virus.
Even with vaccinations underway, Mecklenburg’s critical coronavirus trends — including the daily caseload, positivity rate and hospitalizations — are all rising. The spread around the county of coronavirus variants, some of which are considered more contagious and dangerous, is “concerning,” Harris said.
People should still follow COVID-19 safeguards like wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and avoiding crowds, the health director said.
“We need to continue to do everything that we can to prevent the spread of this virus in our community,” Harris said.