Covid-19 Update: Vaccines get closer to FDA approval, case counts continue to rise in tri-county region

The FDA could approve the Covid-19 vaccines by the end of the month. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

According to the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci, the Food and Drug Administration could officially approve the Covid-19 vaccines in coming weeks. Pfizer could be the first one approved, with Moderna coming thereafter; Johnson & Johnson said it plans to file for full approval by end of the year, according to Wall Street Journal.

“If that’s the case, you’re going to see the empowerment of local enterprises, giving mandates that could be colleges, universities, places of business, a whole variety, and I strongly support that,” Fauci told the AP.

Biden recently mandated federal employees and contractors show vaccination proof, else they have to wear masks and get tested weekly. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also put in place the same strategy for state cabinet agencies. Cooper urged the private sector and other organizations to follow suit.


Corporations such as Walmart, Google, United Airlines and Tyson — which has five plants in North Carolina — announced vaccine requirements of its employees. Novant Health, which has providers in both Brunswick and New Hanover counties, also will require employees to get their shots.

New Hanover County is expected to make a decision this week, after a recommendation from the county health board favored vaccines. It suggested employees get a shot, or wear a mask and take a weekly Covid-19 test.

RELATED: County health board recommends mandatory vaccinations for employees, decision anticipated next week

UNCW also announced last week that students who show proof of vaccination won’t be relegated to surveillance testing during the upcoming school year. In a letter from Chancellor Sartarelli, he revealed the university will require face coverings indoors but will review the policy Sept. 17, as it continues to track data and guidance from the CDC.

Counties, businesses and other institutions have been putting back in place mask mandates indoors, regardless of vaccination status. New Hanover County employees and visitors have to wear face coverings in county buildings. CFPUA announced it would require masks inside its facilities starting Monday.

The precautionary measures come as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. In North Carolina, hospitalizations have increased by 300% since this time last year (though the fatality rate is less).

Whereas Novant’s NHRMC was treating less than five patients a week at the beginning of July, as of Friday the daily average has risen to 52. It reflects the uptick in Covid-19 cases in the tri-county region — over 700 in both New Hanover and Brunswick counties over the last two weeks, Pender has seen almost 300 in the same timespan (NHRMC serves seven counties).

The highly transmissible delta variant makes up for 80% of cases across the state, according to the North Carolina Health and Human Services Department. Though it can cause a more intense viral load than the original strain, the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) maintains the vaccines — Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna — prevent severe illness and even death.

“Infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant,” the CDC noted on its website. “ Some breakthrough infections are expected but remain rare.”

The FDA announced it will have a booster strategy in place by September, as studies have shown approved vaccines become less effective after six months. Its efficacy seems to diminish over time.

Vaccine numbers are slowly moving up in southeastern North Carolina, with New Hanover having fully inoculated 53% of the population, Brunswick at 52% and Pender at 38%. Previously, Gov. Cooper stated a desire to see 70% of the population inoculated with at least one shot in order to reach some level of herd immunity; right now North Carolina is at 62%.

The tri-county region continues to host vaccine clinics. Here is a list in the coming week:

New Hanover County

No appointments needed. Pfizer will be administered and is approved for ages 12 and older.

Aug. 9, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — NHC Health and Human Services, 1650 Greenfield St.
Aug. 10, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. — NHC Health and Human Services, 1650 Greenfield St., or noon – 7 p.m., Independence Mall
Aug. 11, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — NHC Health and Human Services, 1650 Greenfield St.
Aug. 12, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. — NHC Health and Human Services, 1650 Greenfield St.

Brunswick County

No appointments needed. All three vaccines are available. Second doses will be administered, but folks must have their vaccine card to assess which shot will need to be administered.

Aug. 9, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Oak Island Farmers Market in Middleton Park behind Town Hall, 4610 E. Dolphin Drive, Oak Island
Aug. 10, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Waccamaw Elementary School Gym, 5901 Waccamaw School Road NW, Ash
Aug. 11, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. — South Brunswick High School Gym, 280 Cougar Road, Southport
Aug. 12, 9 a.m. – noon — Drive-thru at Oak Island First Baptist Church, 4608 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island

Pender County

Pender County Public Health is taking appointments in Burgaw and Hampstead.


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