Saturday, April 13, 2024

Vaccination Update: County crossing halfway mark in the 65+ community

New Hanover County staff performed a vaccination event at the New Beginning Christian Church as part of a comprehensive effort to ensure minority communities are vaccinated at rates that meet or exceed population proportions. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY—With the local vaccination effort soon to enter its third month, over half of New Hanover County’s 65-and-older community received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. 

Donna Fayko, health and human services director, said it equals about 55% of the 65-and-older community.

State data indicates a total of 32,000 people in New Hanover County have received at least one shot, which is approximately 13.6% of the total county population. Health care workers are also eligible for vaccinations, but compiling the total population of that community has proved difficult, Fayko said.

As in previous weeks, the county was only promised 300 doses for first-dose shots, but like last week a shipment of 700 vaccines intended for New Hanover Regional Medical Center was rerouted to the county to boost appointment availability. 

RELATED: Health department gets a boost from NHRMC after receiving slim vaccine supply from state [Free]

Twelve minutes after the county advertised open slots at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, 490 appointments had been booked via the online portal, while 310 appointments were scheduled over the phone within half an hour, according to a county spokesperson.

Around 200 doses are being diverted to vaccinate staff at the 911 call center and the detention facility, per an “executive decision” from the county manager. 

Fayko said that since the sale of NHRMC to Novant Health closed — and coming off the heels of the announcement that Michael Jordan would be giving the company $10 million — the nature of conversations between the county and NHRMC hasn’t changed. The two were partners previously, she said, and still continue to be. 

“Our conversations are continuing with the hospital system, and have been for some time,” Fayko said. “We have been talking for a few weeks and we are working together on a collaborative event, we’re just finalizing the details at this point in time.”

A county spokesperson added: “You can definitely tell that they’re eager and wanting to engage with us to reach the equity population, but I think that’s been a goal all along.”

Governor Roy Cooper announced last week that teachers and school support staff will become eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine by next week. Still, state leaders are urging counties to continue prioritizing the elderly community; teachers will not be able to proverbially “cut in line,” counties are told. 

“We’re not excluding anyone from groups 1 and 2, in order to serve group 3,” Fayko said. 

Fayko added that around 33% of the 75-and-older community has been vaccinated, and around 39% of the ages 65-to-74 demographic has been vaccinated. On Tuesday afternoon, the county forwarded current state data that states about 50% of the 65-to-74-year-old community has received at least one shot, while the 75+ community has seen 60% of its members get shots to date.

The county does not schedule vaccination appointments until supply is received, in order to avoid having to cancel appointments. According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the state learns of incoming shipments typically on Tuesday nights. On Thursday evenings, the state offers allocations to the counties, which then receive them the following Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Accepting the allocation of vaccines comes with a set of conditions: All first doses that arrive on a Tuesday or Wednesday must be entered into the state’s record-keeping server by the following Monday; vaccines cannot be restricted based on residency; and the percentage of vaccines administered to minority populations needs to meet or exceed the population numbers for those demographics. 

New Hanover County obtained an extra 500 doses for a community vaccination event that will target minority populations next week. Still, according to state data, Black and Hispanic residents are under-represented in vaccination totals. The county also began to send teams of vaccination staff into the homes of certain residents to inoculate homebound seniors. 

“Vaccine providers need to do their due diligence to ensure access to those in active prioritization groups in their counties including intentional outreach to historically marginalized populations,” a DHHS spokesperson wrote in an email. “The Department’s goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible with very limited supply of vaccines.”

Update — Wednesday 5:00 p.m. — This story has been updated with more current vaccination statistics

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