First dose of Moderna vaccine given to 19-year nurse in New Hanover County [Free]

Panza Allen McNeill receives New Hanover County's first dose of the Moderna vaccine Tuesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy New Hanover County)
Panza Allen McNeill receives New Hanover County’s first dose of the Moderna vaccine Tuesday afternoon. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Panza Allen McNeill, a 19-year New Hanover County Public Health nurse, received the first dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine in the county Tuesday afternoon.

The county administered its first doses of the Moderna vaccine to frontline health workers Tuesday who interact with Covid-19 patients as part of their daily job.

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“The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be the fight of our lives, but the arrival of the vaccine gives a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel,” Allen McNeill said in a county press release. “I am excited, and very honored to be among the first to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose in New Hanover County, and I’m ready to continue the fight. My hope is that others will see myself and my colleagues take the vaccine and feel more comfortable making the decision to be vaccinated themselves.”

Just days earlier, on Thursday, New Hanover Regional Medical Center received the county’s first batch of vaccine, with 2,925 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Moderna obtained emergency FDA approval Thursday; Pfizer was approved Dec. 11. NHRMC received the Pfizer vaccine in part because of its ability to meet its ultra-cold storage capacity requirements. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 2,000 NHRMC staffers have been vaccinated, according to a hospital spokesperson.

The general public will have to wait until phase four — expected in an estimated nine months — to gain access to the vaccine.

Phase one

New Hanover County received 4.800 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Both the hospital and the county are administering the vaccine to only individuals that fall under the state’s “phase one” category, which includes only frontline health workers, first responders, nursing home staff, and seniors with two or more chronic health conditions.

County Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko said the county estimates between 3,000 and 20,000 people will fall within phase one in New Hanover County.

The county anticipates receiving more vaccine but exact allotments are not certain at this time.

Fayko said the county hopes everyone can get vaccinated free of charge within nine months. “It’s not going to be a flip of the switch,” she said during a media roundtable Tuesday afternoon. “It’s going to be a process.”

Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper shared an update to the state’s Covid-19 County Alert System, which shows New Hanover County moving from the yellow (least severe) to orange (mid-range severity) category within a three-tier system.

Related: New Hanover County moves to ‘orange’ zone, Cooper urges North Carolinians to take precautions this Christmas [Free]

Carla Turner, assistant health director of New Hanover County said the county is seeing a “second surge within a surge” deriving from a Thanksgiving-related Covid-19 spike.

Cases are ticking up locally, with the latest seven-day average through Tuesday at 109 new cases per day. That’s up 43% from the week prior, which logged 76 new cases daily across a seven-day average, according to county data.

In mid-November, the county was averaging 67 cases daily; in early November, the county reported a seven-day average of 45 new daily cases; in early October, the county saw 28 cases per day on average; in early September, it logged 48 cases per day on average.

Friday, the county saw its highest single-day case count to date, with 198 new cases.

Visit the county’s website for more information on its Covid-19 vaccination plan.

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