COVID-19 vaccine providers in NC look for new ways to reach more of the population

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — As it becomes easier to get the COVID-19 vaccine, providers say they’re working on new strategies to reach more of the population in the hope of driving vaccination numbers higher.

Wake County Public Health no longer has a waitlist to get the vaccine.

“We’ve been tracking demand, and we do and have seen a bit of a decline but not significant,” said Ryan Jury, mass vaccination branch manager for Wake County. “Over 80 percent of our appointments have been filled for the next couple of days. So, what we do know is day seven isn’t booked out.”

As of Monday, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 46.6 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose of the vaccines while 34.8 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.

“So, the goal of the state is to get to 70 percent of eligible individuals being vaccinated with a series completion. We’re close, but the next 20 percent are going to be a lot different than the first 20 percent,” said Jury.

Jury said the county is assessing how much longer mass vaccination sites like PNC Arena will be needed.

“I would say by summer many of those type of mass vaccination offerings won’t necessarily be there,” he said.

He said the goal is to provide greater access across the county, trying to eliminate barriers such as the cumbersome appointment process or expecting people to drive to a mass vaccination site.

He added that beginning with next week’s allocation, providers will have a new way of accessing doses from the state.

“In the new vaccine allocation strategy, vaccine providers (there are over 200 vaccine providers here in Wake County) will be able to request or almost ‘order’ vaccine. And, that will be able to allow them to be a little bit more in control of how many doses they get directly from the state,” he said. “So, I think that’ll be a big game changer for the county.”

Federal officials asked states to pause giving the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine last week after six women experienced rare blood clots.

Jury said it would be speculative to say whether that’s having an impact on people’s willingness to get the other vaccines, which have not been linked to any similar issue.

The state’s allocation of first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will increase this week, according to the CDC. North Carolina is receiving 112,100 first and second Moderna doses and 150,930 first and second Pfizer doses.

Mitch Babb, chief operating officer at Duke Regional Hospital, said Duke also no longer has a waiting list for the vaccine.

He said people could have gone online Monday morning and booked an appointment for later in the afternoon.

He said making it simpler for people to access the vaccines may encourage more people to be willing to get them.

“The more that we can put this into the community, whether that’s in the pharmacies or grocery stores, and primarily in primary care physician offices, that would be an ideal state,” he said.

In a sign of how the supply and demand situation has changed, on Tuesday Duke will offer a vaccine clinic where no appointment is needed for the first time.

It willll take place at the Wheels Fun Park from noon to 6 p.m. It’s located at 715 N. Hoover Road.

“To make it easy for anyone, hopefully to take down any barriers if there is a technology barrier that is there,” he said.

While Jury and Babb said demand has gone down, they said those drops have not been drastic.

In other parts of the state, vaccine providers have said they are seeing major dips in people signing up for appointments.

Last week, Cape Fear Valley Health said on Monday only 15 percent of available appointments had been booked.

“I think what we’re worried about is the vaccine supply is outpacing demand,” said Vice President of Professional Services at Cape Fear Valley Health Chris Tart, PharmD, said in a statement. “We need to encourage everyone to roll their sleeves up and be vaccinated so we can continue to put this pandemic behind us. We’re not where we need to be yet, but the demand has definitely slowed down.”

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