The Centers for Disease Control has asked state health officials to get ready to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine by late October or early November.
The planning documents were first reported this week by The New York Times.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen acknowledged this week that this would be an important tool in fighting the virus, but it would also require a lot of coordination.
“The planning does need to start now and has already started among my team and external stakeholders thinking about both priority groups about who would be first in line to get the vaccine as well as how we do the distribution,” explained Dr. Cohen.
But in the race to get a vaccine to market, some worry about the politicization of the process.
Dr. Cohen opted not to focus on the timing at a Thursday press conference and focus more on how the public can help.
“There are trials going on right now in North Carolina – Phase 3 trials – that aren’t even fully enrolled. They enroll a lot of folks in those to make sure they understand how that vaccine would perform in older folks, folks from different races.”
Secretary Cohen said the medical community wants a good understanding of how that vaccine is performing, both from a safety perspective as well as an efficacy perspective.
Health officials will also be working with Emergency Management to make sure North Carolina is ready when a vaccine is widely available.
“There is still a lot of science left to do, data for us to see before we are moving forward with a vaccine.”
For now, Cohen wants North Carolinians to do their best to prevent the spread of the virus by continuing to practice the 3 Ws – Wearing a face mask, waiting six-feet apart when in public, and washing hands frequently.
Heading into Labor Day weekend, North Carolina recorded 1,656 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday with 858 people hospitalized and a rate of 7.6% of tests coming back positive.