As N.C. tries to maximize number of vaccinations, diverting doses to mass events still straining some counties [Free]

New Hanover County performed second-dose shots only this past week, while first-dose shots continued at certain providers and outreach events spearheaded by NHRMC. (Port City Daily/Courtesy of New Hanover County)

North Carolina opted to use a sizable portion of its vaccine supply for large-scale events this past week, with as much as a fourth of the weekly allotment dedicated to a vaccination site at Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium this weekend, according to WBTV. 

The strategic adjustment was an attempt by state health officials to ensure as much vaccine as possible goes into arms — a metric the federal government uses to calculate the size of future vaccine shipments — but the move forced some counties to cancel vaccine appointments after expected shipments never arrived. 

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Donna Fayko, New Hanover County Health and Human Services director, said the county is given short notice from the state when shipments are en route, and does not schedule vaccine appointments until the allotment is secured. 

“We have heard that some counties did not receive expected supply after scheduling residents for first dose appointments, but this is not the case in New Hanover County,” a county spokesperson wrote in an email. 

The county’s public health team moved forward with administering around 4,500 second-dose shots this week, forwarded at least 975 Pfizer vaccines to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, and worked with other providers such as Wilmington Health and the Med North clinic to continue vaccinations for people 65 and older. 

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will now start coordinating vaccine allocations three weeks in advance.

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Brunswick County announced that Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, Dosher Memorial Hospital and Brunswick County Health Services will receive a combined allotment of at least 1,275 doses per week, for at least the next three weeks. Existing appointments will not be affected, according to the county.

New Hanover Public Health can expect a minimum baseline of 300 weekly doses over the next three weeks from state allocations. The office consistently received four-figure shipments in previous weeks. Next week’s allocation is expected to be larger than 300, according to a county spokesperson, who added that public health has the capacity to perform 3,500 inoculations a week.

More than 6,000 vaccines under the county’s purview have been forwarded to NHRMC, which receives additional supply from the state in a separate downline, and over 2,500 have been transferred to Wilmington Health. At least 400 have been transferred to MedNorth and 40 have gone to Cape Fear Clinic.

NHRMC opened first-dose vaccination appointments times this week, and slots were typically filled within minutes. As of Friday, more than 20,000 first doses had been administered in New Hanover County. Over 10,000 were given by public health, and the remainder came from NHRMC, Wilmington Health, Cape Fear Clinic and MedNorth — the current slate of county partners that have gained access to the state’s vaccine data entry program, which allows a facility to store and administer doses and requires documentation for each vaccination given

The data entry system has been criticized by medical leaders. The N.C. Watchdog Reporting Network reported the state’s hospital association sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper, saying, “The COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS) is burdensome and ineffective, creating an unnecessary bottleneck in the delivery of vaccines.” 

Before clinics and potential providers can gain access to the vaccine supply, they must become familiar with the CVMS and obtain approvals from the state.

Mandy Cohen, the state health secretary, said in a press conference this week that onboarding new providers would be a slow process until supply from the federal government increased. 

“As far as new providers coming online, it is going to have to be targeted in the near term just given the limited supply we have,” Cohen said at the press conference. 

At its biweekly news briefing Friday, Novant Health — set to formally acquire NHRMC this Monday — indicated an eagerness to get involved in mass vaccination efforts. 

“There’s still not enough to go around for everyone to have large events every single weekend,” said Pam Oliver, Novant executive vice president. “We do not understand how or why they make certain decisions, and to resource some and not others. We don’t know what that will look like over the coming weeks.”


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