NEW HANOVER COUNTY — At 1:04 p.m. Thursday, New Hanover Regional Medical Center announced via e-mail that it had appointments available for free Covid-19 vaccinations. Twelve minutes later, it announced the slots were filled.
According to spokesperson Julian March, NHRMC received 1,950 doses of vaccine from the state this week and an additional 975 from the New Hanover County Health Department. Of those 2,925 doses, 2,100 were designated for NHRMC’s community vaccination clinics.
“All scheduling is based on the allocation we receive,” March wrote to Port City Daily on Thursday. “We administer the vaccines we receive as quickly as possible, consistently in less than a week.”
It’s what the federal government wants to see in order to get more vaccines to the states. N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said Monday that the federal government would stop allocating doses based on population, but rather on how many doses states have each week that have not been administered. At Wednesday’s Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Gov. Roy Cooper said North Carolina had administered 99% of the first doses it had received.
Cohen also announced that the federal government would increase its allocations to states by 16% in coming weeks, which officials surmise may be an additional 20,000 doses.
However, this week the state received half the amount than compared in recent weeks.
“We are able to get a sixth dose from many vials,” March wrote about the Pfizer vaccine.
Moderna can offer up to 11 doses a vial.
“[It] increases the amount of vaccination appointments we can offer throughout the week,” March added. “We schedule appointments proactively only for the vaccines we have to avoid ever having to cancel appointments and ensuring we use every dose of this precious resource.”
On Jan. 27, NHRMC announced 1,300 appointments filled in 20 minutes. On Jan. 28, the group didn’t announce how many were filled, but appointments opened at 1:04 p.m. before closing at 1:16 p.m.
Individuals who don’t have access to a computer can hear a message status on vaccine availability by calling (910) 662-2020; this is the same number to book appointments when scheduling is available.
There are no waiting lists to sign up to secure a slot; all appointments are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
According to New Hanover County’s Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko, an online portal is coming soon for folks to schedule vaccines themselves, much like what is already offered through Atrium Health in other parts of the state.
“That’s not fully developed at this time,” Fayko told Port City Daily on Jan. 16. “We also know that the federal program, the [Covid-19 Vaccine Management System], is working to develop that aspect and it has not been developed yet.”
Update: NHRMC opened 500 more doses on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:04 p.m. Appointments were filled by 7:16 p.m.
Official urges governor, public health to allow more vaccinators
On Thursday, State Treasurer Dale Folwell — who also leads the State Health Plan, which provides healthcare coverage to 750,000 teachers, current and former lawmakers, state university and community college personnel, active and retired state employees, and dependents — released a statement saying North Carolina Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) should not be relegating vaccine administration only to hospitals and health departments.
“In sixty-two years, I’ve never gone to a hospital to get a vaccine,” Folwell said.
He urged public health to expand vaccinators through primary care physicians, pediatricians and pharmacies, and get away from the “expensive hospital environment.”
North Carolina has ranked 31st nationwide, according to Becker’s Hospital Review, in vaccine administration. According to the state health’s dashboard, the federal government allocated more than 1.4 million doses to North Carolina to date. More than 1.1 million have arrived, and only 822,043 have been administered, putting the state at a 70% rate of inoculation.
In New Hanover County, 25,968 people have received the vaccine, with 20,422 being first doses and 5,546 receiving the full series, according to the state Covid-19 dashboard.
Folwell questioned state public health for not getting ahead of the program months into Covid-19, as vaccines were undergoing review of approval.
“For almost a year we’ve known there are regional and cultural differences in attitude towards vaccines, especially new ones,” Folwell said in the press release. “We’ve always known that ground zero is elderly facilities and prisons. The administration of the rollout has not reflected the standards that North Carolinians should expect.”
He pointed to vaccines being left in coolers and freezers that are going to waste from not being used by healthcare workers who declined them. Yet, he also noted how some of the most vulnerable citizens, like those 65 and older, are experiencing heightened anxiety by not being able to get appointments.
“People are dying,” Folwell said in the release. “Poverty and illiteracy are worsening.”
Not to mention, it’s taking an economic toll on so many, Folwell said. By not having enough people inoculated, life can’t resume, the economy can’t get back on track, and people can’t get move on past the medical crisis.
“It’s been the forgotten man and woman that has been the most economically impacted by the pandemic,” he said. “It’s time to start opening up this economy so that people can have their jobs back, giving them hope for a better future.”
Folwell said the State Health Plan and the Clear Pricing Project Network are on standby to help begin administering the vaccines. However, he also called out statewide public health to begin approving applications to ensure this is done.
He specifically mentioned Tryon Medical Partners — an independent agency with 90 physicians and 125,000 patients — who requested through NCDHHS to administer the vaccinations. However, the state department has not responded, saying it’s buried with an “influx” of applications.
“We have tens of thousands of independent physicians and other medical providers who are ready to give these vaccines today,” Folwell said in the release. “We need to be getting the doses to the people who want the vaccines using primary care doctors, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists – anybody with medical expertise.”
“If all fails, solicit the advice of the teenagers who run Chick-Fil-A,” he added. “They know how to distribute product!”
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