State health officials have spent weeks urging North Carolinians to be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
They developed a special website. They created a catchy tagline: You have a spot. Take Your Shot.
But with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in incredibly short supply nationwide, health officials are also urging patience.
Large vaccination events helped get more shots into arms over the past week, but it has also left some counties without vaccines and hospitals cancelling established appointments.
On Tuesday, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen worked to explain the shift and provide greater certainty moving forward.
“After the federal government put all states on notice that future vaccine allocations would be based on how much supply our state had on hand, we charged our vaccine providers with exhausting North Carolina’s supply of first doses,” Cohen said.
More than 633,000 people have gotten their first dose of the vaccine from North Carolina providers. And 260,000 of those first doses have been delivered in just the past week.
Secretary Cohen said it’s an incredible achievement that should show the federal government that North Carolina is ready and able to take and distribute more doses.
North Carolina expects to receive 120,000 doses of the COVID vaccine this week. Of that number, the state will earmark 84,000 first doses for local providers.
“Providers will be given a baseline amount of vaccines that they can expect for the next three weeks,” Dr. Cohen explained.
Vaccines will be allocated to each county based on population and then divided among the providers based on their vaccine capacity.
State officials will also keep a supply of second doses on hand to make sure that the booster shots are available when it’s time for North Carolinians to get the second shot in the series.
Cohen said the initial plan that distributed the vaccine across all 100 counties needed to be revised to one of speed to demonstrate to the federal government that North Carolina can in fact handle more doses.
“We will continue to reassess this as we learn, and I think we will be in different moment in time as we get different information from the federal government in terms of supply.”
Dr. Cohen said while the state works with local providers on delivery and equitable access, it is also requesting more help from the Biden administration.
“We have heard good news on this front.We’re starting to hear there may be some additional vaccine in our future,” Cohen offered.
Late Tuesday afternoon the Biden administration outlined efforts to boost vaccine supply to the states starting next week.
Local health agencies are being urged not to waste any of the vaccine during the pandemic, and have a wait list of individuals who can be called at the end of the day or in the event of “no shows” at certain clinics.
The hustle to vaccinate as many people as possible comes as COVID-19 has claimed more than 2,000 lives in North Carolina since the first of January.
The state recorded 3,978 new COVID cases on Tuesday with 3,368 people hospitalized across the state.
North Carolina is currently providing vaccinations to health care workers and long-term care staff and residents along with those 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
For more on the rollout, check out the NCDHHS’s new vaccine dashboard below.