What do I do when it’s my turn to get the vaccine? And other questions [Free]

Folks line up at New Hanover County Health and Human Services to get the Covid-19 vaccination. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Since the Covid-19 vaccine rollout began in New Hanover County, questions keep rising from the public on where to go to get the vaccine and when — not to mention what to bring, how to get an appointment, who will administer it, and what to expect overall.

What we know so far is that New Hanover County’s vaccination program could take up to nine months to complete. Multiple variables play into the mass distribution of the vaccines — from the supply rolling into the states from the federal government to how many vaccinators need to be in place as phases progress across each county in North Carolina.

Related: Covid-19 vaccine appointments full in New Hanover as call center flooded with inquiries [Free]


New Hanover County Public Health opened its Coronavirus Call Center on Wednesday, Jan. 6, for appointments of those in Phase 1B, ages 75 and older. Immediately, the call center was jammed with busy phone lines as 3,000 appointments were booked within hours. Public health officials have said once more shipments of the vaccines are received, they will be able to schedule more appointments. Right now, they have scheduled vaccinations through Jan. 12.

Port City Daily asked New Hanover County Public Health to answer a few questions about the vaccination process, so readers know from the source what to do and what to expect when it’s their time to get the vaccine. The county’s answers (except for the first question) are included verbatim:

Q: Where do I fall in line?
Phase 1

  • 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 (first responders, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers and school support staff members, and child care workers)
  • Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age

Phase 2

  • 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 in congregate living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function
  • Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated (workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing and construction workers, finance and bank tellers, information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety and public health workers)

Phase 3
College and high school students ages 16 and up

Phase 4
Open to the public at large.

Q: How will I be informed it’s my turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
New Hanover County will share information about who is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine through news media, email distribution (sign up here), social media, community partners, and various other mechanisms. People can also call the Coronavirus Call Center Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 910-798-6800 to ask about eligibility. 

Q: Which entity will be in charge of administering the vaccine in its various phases?
Right now, hospitals and county health departments are the only authorized provider of COVID-19 vaccines. Eventually, clinics and doctors’ offices will be able to enroll as a vaccine provider to administer vaccines as well, but for now, stay tuned to New Hanover County Public Health. 

[Ed. note: Please, note that lines can be long at public health, where folks wait outside for their turn to be vaccinated. Dress accordingly to the weather, and anyone who has trouble standing for long periods of time may consider bringing a portable chair or stool.]

RELATED: NHRMC Physician Group begins vaccines for individuals 75 and older [Free]

Q: Where will I go?
Depending on the phase and priority groups served, several locations may be available. Currently, eligibility and locations will be listed at Health.NHCgov.com/Coronavirus. As physician offices become able to administer the vaccine, residents can also call their healthcare provider to inquire if they can administer the vaccine. We anticipate that occurring around the end of January for some providers in our area.

Q: Will I need an appointment? Or a referral from my doctor?
People eligible to receive a vaccine can call the New Hanover County Coronavirus Call Center at 910-798-6800 for a time slot to get a vaccine when appointments are available. Appointments will only be available based on the number of vaccines Public Health currently has, so there will be days when appointments won’t be taken.

A referral from a doctor is not needed. In addition, once physician offices have the ability to administer the vaccine, residents can call their healthcare provider to schedule their vaccine.

Q: What should I bring with me to get the vaccine: specific documents, proof of insurance, verification it’s my turn within my specific group/phase?
Nothing is needed when someone arrives to get a vaccine. They will have to complete a short registration form with their name and contact information, as well as answer a few other questions, to ensure they meet the current phase’s criteria. But no ID is required or specific documents.

Q: After I get the first shot, will I be reminded of my appointment for the second? If so, who will remind me and how will I be reminded (email, text, phone call, etc.)?
When you get the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, you will get a card with the type of vaccine you received, the date you received it, and the date you should return for your second dose. The person will be instructed to come back to the same location for their second dose, at the same time, on the date noted, and staff will book that reservation at the time of the first dose. Our call center will also be available if someone has questions about their second dose. 

Q: What happens if I miss the date for my second dose? 
You can still get your second dose and should make an appointment as soon as possible.

Q: How does the county plan to keep up with scheduling the second doses? 
We have a system in place that we are coordinating reservations through and the state’s system also tracks second doses.

Q: Will the process for the second shot be just like the first?
For the second shot, we will look up the person in CVMS (which is the state’s tracking system) to confirm it is time for their 2nd dose, and determine which vaccine they received for their first dose so that the same vaccine can be given. 

Q: Does the vaccine hurt?
No more than a flu shot or any other vaccination. Some people have reported soreness at the vaccination site or feeling feverish in the following days. This is your body’s immune response building immunity that the vaccine provides. 

Q: What can I expect when I receive it?
In terms of experience, once a person makes an appointment and comes to a vaccination site, they will be show where to wait in line. They will fill out a short registration form that is then entered into the state’s vaccination system to track all vaccines administered. Once it is their turn, a nurse or EMT will administer the shot in the arm. Then the person will wait 15 minutes to be monitored, given a second dose instruction card, and will then be able to leave and go home.

Q: What are some of its side effects?
Some people have reported soreness at the vaccination site or feeling feverish in the following days. This is your body’s immune response building immunity that the vaccine provides. 

Q: What should I do if I experience side effects?
If people experience any adverse side effect or allergy reactions, get medical attention immediately, and report the adverse effect at 1-800-822-7967 or https://vaers.hhs.gov/reportevent.html

Q: What determines which vaccine I get: Moderna or Pfizer? Do I choose?
Right now, supplies received determines what vaccine is provided. Eventually, when more vaccine supplies are available, individuals may be able to decide which vaccine they would prefer and make an appointment with their healthcare provider to receive it. 

Q: Is the vaccine always free?
YES. Everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will get it for free. 

Q: How long is the immunity expected to last?  
Clinical trial participants will be followed for a total of 25 months to determine length of immunity, among other information.  At this time, we do not know how long immunity will last.

Q: If I am vaccinated and become immune from COVID-19 symptoms, can I still transfer the virus to someone else? 
This is not fully known at this time.

Q: Will children receive the vaccine? What is the age cutoff?
No vaccine is approved for anyone under 16 at this time. As more information becomes available and vaccines are recommended for children, vaccines will be provided to everyone who wants one.


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