SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Gaining access to a frozen batch of Moderna or Pfizer vials was a rare feat early in the vaccination effort, when county health departments and hospital systems handled the bulk of the shots. Health officials initially said onboarding new recruits would be a slow and deliberate process.
As it turns out, it went quicker than most expected.
In the first three weeks of March, North Carolina took in a weekly vaccine supply twice as large as the amounts received in early January. It also initiated more than 250 new providers, ranging from family-run pharmacies to national brands.
The increase in vaccine supply guided the state’s decision to make vaccines available to all adults starting April 7, and has allowed more local entities to get involved in serving shots.
Eight facilities are accredited to administer the Covid-19 in New Hanover County; there are 11 vaccine providers in Brunswick County and seven in Pender County.
Providers in New Hanover County received roughly twice as many total doses last week (5,880), compared to the number received in the first week of January (2,925).
Recent additions to providers in the county include UNCW, which will use its vaccines initially for its in-house community, and Wilmington’s single-physician, family practice Promina Health. New Hanover received nearly 6,000 first-dose shots last week.
“There is still more demand for the COVID-19 vaccine in New Hanover County than there is supply, but we are seeing supply improve,” a county spokesperson wrote in an email. “As the amount of supply increases and the number of approved providers increases, more opportunities to get vaccinated will be available.”
There’s no simple, inviting process for joining the ranks of vaccine providers, said Brian Lanier, president of Wilmington family practice Promina Health, which received a batch of Moderna vaccines this week for the first time.
“It is an extremely difficult process to go through,” Lanier said. “If there had been a really clearcut pathway, with a comprehensive package of things to go through, it would have been a lot easier.”
M. Kent Locklear, the chief medical officer of Cape Fear Clinic, said he and his staff began making their case to the state last fall, vouching for the clinic’s capabilities. Earning an independent allotment of 100 weekly doses was a months-long process that took lots of back-and-forth.
Locklear said vaccine hesitancy has increased during the clinic’s targeted outreach efforts. It can take longer now to find takers for the shots, he said, and some residents have resisted offerings of the vaccine, stating a distrust in the government or the vaccine production process.
“I hope we’re not the leading edge of what we’re going to find in the general population,” Locklear said. “I hope that’s not true, but I have real concerns about it.”
In Brunswick and Pender counties, last week’s tally was quadruple their early January numbers (4,410 compared to 1,175 for Brunswick; 1,200 to 300 for Pender).
Brunswick County has a comparatively large number of small institutions operating with a 100-dose allotment of vaccines. Novant Health plays a significant role in the county’s vaccination scene; earlier this month a large-scale event was hosted at Brunswick Community College. Last week, 4,410 doses were sent to providers across the county.
Pender County received 1,200 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for its providers last week. Pender County announced Monday that all adults were invited to sign up for vaccination appointments through the health department.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately make available data for this week’s vaccination allocations. Port City Daily will publish an updated list of vaccine providers and their allotments for this week once data is available.
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