North Carolina declines vaccine stock for the first time since it became available

North Carolina declined its weekly vaccine shipment offered by the federal government, signaling a stark slow-down in demand. (Port City Daily/Courtesy of New Hanover County)

North Carolina declined the federal government’s weekly offering of additional Covid-19 doses, marking the first week since the effort began last December that the state didn’t ask for more vials.

Instead, the now-small demand for shots will be filled by rerouting product from within the network of healthcare providers that has vaccines sitting on the shelves, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. 

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This past week, “NCDHHS did not place orders for new vaccine allocations from the federal government,” a spokesperson told Port City Daily in an email. 

“We are currently focusing on prioritizing the in-state inventory of vaccine by using a first-in, first-out strategy so that providers use vaccines by date of expiration in chronological order, as well as transferring vaccine between providers who can use them.”

As N.C. signals a diminishing interest for shots across the state, local inoculation operations are slimming down as well. Major medical institutions in the area have requested far fewer doses in the past six weeks. Vaccine hubs like New Hanover Regional Medical Center and New Hanover County Public Health went from requesting more than 1,000 doses weekly on a regular basis to asking for a few hundred, then zero. 

The week of May 24, neither Brunswick nor Pender County requested vaccine doses. In New Hanover County, only 100 new inbound doses were sent to a family physician practice and 100 more were sent to the Medac on Shipyard Boulevard.

Doses of the Pfizer vaccine can be stored in deep-freeze conditions for up to six months, according to the company’s website. The containers the vials arrive in can be restocked with dry ice to keep the product viable for a month; on May 19, the Food and Drug Administration changed its guidelines to allow the vaccine to be stored in standard refrigerator conditions for up to a month. (Previously the vaccine could only be kept in the fridge for five days.)

Doses of the Moderna vaccine, once thawed, can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 30 days. After the vials –– which contain around ten doses –– are punctured, the shot must be administered within a few hours before it’s rendered unusable. 

New Hanover County plans to descale its vaccination clinic at its health and human services headquarters, closing down the full-time vax outpost and incorporating the shots into the clinic’s standard list of services. One of three National Guard units assisting the county will be mobilized. Independence Mall will still offer doses. 

North Carolina has returned at least 1.2 million shots to the federal government, and currently has a surplus of 2.4 million doses yet to be administered, according to the Associated Press. 

New Hanover County has vaccinated more than 115,000 people with at least one dose, out of its population of 243,000. In Brunswick County, 73,000 people — about half of the population — have received at least one dose. In Pender, about a third of the population of 63,000 has received at least one dose. 


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