Tuesday, January 31, 2023

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen warns, ‘This coming week is going to feel like a big change’ concerning N.C. vaccine distribution [Free]

Dr. Mandy Cohen said N.C. counties would experience less distribution of vaccines this week because of an increase going to large-scale events across the state. (Port City Daily/Courtesy NC Department Health and Humans Service socials)

North Carolina’s top health official said Tuesday that the state will receive around 120,000 first-dose Covid-19 vaccines weekly from the federal government. 

The supply is smaller than in previous weeks, Secretary of N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Dr. Mandy Cohen said at a news briefing. Last week, for example, 260,000 first-dose shots were administered across the state. 

Of the weekly allotment, 84,000 doses will go to county health departments, with the allotments based on population size. From there, counties can redistribute the vaccine to partner institutions. In New Hanover County multiple clinics — Wilmington Health, MedNorth and Cape Fear Clinic — alongside New Hanover Regional Medical Center, have received vaccine supply from the county and are administering shots to their patient bases, and some are organizing community vaccine events. 

Cohen said there was previously a backlog in vaccine administrations, with supply building up across the state. Since the federal government informed states that guidelines will soon be changing — with future shipments determined by the state’s existing vaccine supply, rather than population — N.C. ramped up efforts to put all doses to use. 

Much of this week’s vaccine supply has been earmarked for a series of large-scale community vaccination events. 

It will leave many counties with a smaller-than-usual weekly allocation, according to Cohen. “This week is going to feel particularly tight, with many providers getting small or no allocations,” she said. 

Brunswick County is scheduled to host a mass-vaccination event through Novant Health — though, details have yet to be released. Brunswick County’s allotment of vaccine shipment this week was standard, according to a spokesperson. 

“Brunswick County is not seeing an overall major difference in the number of vaccines distributed to providers this week in comparison to the previous week,” a county spokesperson wrote in an email. “However, if allocation is decreased to either the hospitals or the health department in the future, we would have to decrease some of the first dose appointments already scheduled for an appointment at the clinic in Brunswick County.

New Hanover County public health will not be conducting first-dose administrations this week, according to a county spokesperson. Second-dose shots, in turn, are accelerating, with around 4,800 planned this week. The spokesperson said 1,950 vaccine doses were received from the state Monday. Of those, half will be sent to NHRMC, and the other half to Wilmington Health, “for their community-wide vaccination efforts.” 

“Now that providers have cleared the backlog, this coming week is going to feel like a big change,” Cohen said in the press conference. ”

Cohen said N.C.’s strategy at first was to equitably distribute the vaccine throughout the counties by population. Since ensuring every shot goes to use is top priority, allocations in the coming weeks will not be equal among the counties, she said. 

“But as we needed to move to this posture of speed and make sure that we could clear our backlog — because we saw that we did have vaccine building up here in N.C. and we wanted to demonstrate to the federal government that we are ready to take on more vaccine and we want that vaccine here — we shifted our posture to one of speed,” she said. 

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