NC Health Secretary praises Biden pandemic plan, stresses need for greater vaccine access

North Carolina Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen praised President Joe Biden’s executive mask mandate on Thursday saying that it goes hand-in-hand with the what North Carolina has been doing for more than six months.

“We know how this virus spreads, we know that masks work. That consistent message about masks is going to be really, really critical,” Cohen said.

(North Carolina Health and Human Service Secretary Mandy Cohen)

Cohen said she appreciates the “broad strokes” of the Biden administration’s plan, and has shared concerns about the need for better communication about the allocations coming to the state.

Dr. Cohen said a discrepancy in CDC data shows North Carolina has only administered 38% of the vaccines it had received.

“Our own vaccine dashboard shows more than half-a-million vaccinations, CDC does not reflect that. We need better communication and coordination of the same information.”

Another area where North Carolina is seeking federal support is in increasing access to the COVID vaccines.

North Carolina receives an average of 120,000 vaccines a week with local shipments coming in on Wednesdays. Health departments and community partners often don’t know until the end of the week the quantity that they will have for the following week.

Still state officials are urging local health providers not to hold back any of the vaccine that they have on hand.

“We’ve worked through getting out the vaccines that we have on the shelf, and I think you are going to hear more and more ‘We need more’,” said Cohen. “That has been our consistent message, is that we have limited supply and it’s going to take some time for us to get vaccine to everyone who wants it.”

Executive orders signed by President Biden on Thursday will give the states clearer projections on vaccine availability.

The new administration has also pledged to use the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of glass vials and syringes, all necessary components in getting more vaccine into American arms.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert,  told reporters that he still expects most people will be able to get vaccinated by the middle of this year.

Click here to read the National Strategy for COVID-19 Response.

For North Carolinians eligible to get vaccinated now, Dr. Cohen recommends checking with local health department and hospitals to determine when appointments are being offered and if you can be added to a waiting list.

“Again, you don’t have the be confined to your county. Counties can, should and must be serving all jurisdiction,” stressed Sec. Cohen.

For a list of vaccine providers by county, visit YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov.

On Thursday the NC Department of Transportation also announced $2.5 million in Coronavirus Relief Funding would be allocated to local transit agencies across the state to help pay for rides for individuals who need transportation assistance to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Find your local transit agency online.

North Carolina recorded 7,187 new COVID cases on Thursday with 3,666 people hospitalized. While that’s the lowest hospitalization number since the first week in January, the coronavirus has claimed 139 lives in our state in the last 24 hours.

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