Vaccine Update: Wave offers free rides for vaccines, NHRMC opens vaccines at Stone Theaters

Wave Transit will offer door-to-door transportation service to individuals 65 and older needing a ride to get a Covid-19 vaccine. Once more groups are phased in and the public at large can get vaccinated, it will be able to get free rides on the regular bus line to get the series of shots. (Port City Daily photo/Shea Carver)

SOUTHEASTERN NC — Changes are moving along quickly when it comes to ensuring the public has access to the Covid-19 vaccine across the state. The N.C. Department of Transportation and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that $2.5 million will go to local transit agencies across the state as part of the Coronavirus Relief Funding.

According to Wave Transit’s new executive director Marie Parker, the authority will be able to offer passengers in the 65-and-older group door-to-door service to get the vaccine.

“They can call our call center and arrange transportation from their home to the vaccination site,” Parker said. “And then once they’re finished, they can call and we’ll transport them from the vaccination site back to their home.”

Wave will run its smaller vans to pick up citizens within its service area of operations, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. – 8 p.m., and over the weekend from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.  

Parker said since it’s specifically serving a smaller crowd in the current vaccine group, it won’t be an additional stressor to Wave’s resources. Thus more manpower won’t necessarily be needed.

“Based on the information that we got from the county, the demand is not going to be that great [in this first group],” she said. “There’s also going to be, you know, people relying on others, such as family members or neighbors, to get there. Primarily, this is just for people that need transportation that don’t have an alternative.”

However, Wave will not offer door-to-door service for all vaccine groups. Parker said she imagines the public will be able to access a ride from their normal bus line to get to their vaccination destination as other age groups are phased in.

“We’re trying to work out a system whether it’s voucher-based or maybe a flash pass with their mobile phone that can show they have an appointment,” she explained. “That way they can secure the ride for no cost, as well as the return ride.”

Appointments open on Jan. 22 at 8 a.m. and can be made by calling (910) 202-2053 or by e-mailing Monday through Thursday between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 pm. to request weekend transportation.

NHRMC opens vaccines to public at Stone Theaters Pointe 14 Cinema

New Hanover Regional Medical Center has been in partnership with the county’s public health department to administer the Covid-19 vaccine since the series of shots became available mid-December 2020. Though the physician’s group was only serving its primary care established patients, as well as frontline healthcare workers at the hospital, it’s now opened appointments to the public at large.

It’s also opened a large vaccination site at Stone Theaters Pointe 14 Cinemas at The Pointe at Barclay, which has been shuttered since March because of the pandemic.

“We are in the process of giving over 4,500 COVID-19 vaccines at that location,” NHRMC spokesperson Julian March wrote in an email to Port City Daily.

March said he expects to receive additional shipments for next week so they will be able to inoculate even more people. To date, NHRMC has administered 13,000 doses. Currently, they’re serving the 65-and-up age range, plus healthcare and long-term care workers.

Anyone interested in signing up for an appointment must follow instructions when going to the MyChart URL.

“When we have appointment availability, there will be a button at the top of that page anyone can click to schedule, and it will take them to the scheduling page,” March explained. “Though that is hosted at a MyChart URL, they do not need to login to a MyChart account to make an appointment.”

Within 40 minutes after announcing 1,400 appointments opened on Jan. 21, all slots filled.

“The New Hanover Regional Medical Center team, including staff, providers and volunteers are working hard to provide vaccines as quickly as we can to the community,” March wrote.

Correction: The story originally noted the public needs an NHRMC MyChart account to schedule a vaccine; however, after clarification from NHRMC, the public only needs to sign up for inoculation by clicking through to the MyChart URL to hit the “schedule appointment” button once more appointments open.

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