Thousands of COVID-19 vaccines still unused in the Triangle

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)- Federal public health officials are warning states they will change the way vaccines are distributed because doses are not being administered quickly enough. It means states already behind could be sent smaller shipments of the vaccine.

Governor Roy Cooper said this week a limited supply of vaccines and changing federal plans were holding them back from moving faster but vaccination numbers in the triangle show there are thousands of first doses sitting in storage.

“We need doses going to where they’ll be administered quickly and where they’ll protect the most vulnerable,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

How many doses are sitting around?

The state provided CBS 17 with the number of first doses they’ve allocated to each county so far.

Subtracting first doses allocated to first doses administered, in the CBS 17 viewing area showed there are more than 131,000 first doses that have not been used. The state only publishes vaccination numbers once a week therefore there could be some variation in that number.

Sampson, Wake and Orange county have administered the most with at least 50-percent of first doses used. Chatham and Cumberland County have administered 48-percent and 46-percent respectively. Mecklenburg County, has administered 40-percent.

On the other end, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hoke, Vance and Nash counties have used 15 percent or less of their allocated first doses. These counties are currently doing vaccine clinics so those numbers could change by the time the state updates it’s public vaccination information.

So far the biggest counties in the Triangle, Wake and Durham are the only counties not vaccinating the 75 and older group yet. However some healthcare systems in the are have started accepting that group.

“If folks need more arms and legs, people to answer the phones, whatever they need, we want to help them,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen this week. Federal health officials have also asked states to reach out if they need help.

CBS 17 reached out to the state health department to ask if any counties have asked for help. We did not hear back. Earlier in the week, Cohen indicated the state was going down the list, asking counties what they needed. It’s unclear what, if any help was requested or given.

The state now has two weeks to get its act together and fix whatever they want to point to as the hold up in getting vaccines into the arms of the public.

“It give states a strong incentive to make sure doses are going to protect people rather than sitting on shelves or freezers,” said Azar.

Signs of progress

NCDHHS reports hey have had an increase in vaccinations of more than 100 percent in the last week.

The state reports the following:

  • 219,165 doses have been administered throughout the community,
  • 37,992 have been administered across first-dose clinics in long-term care facilities through our federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens
  • In last 7 days, 100,172 vaccines have been administered

HHS recent announcement that it would release all intended as second doses and instead use them as first doses is intended to expand vaccinations. They said that was also the idea behind recommending people 65 and older be vaccinated now.

So far the state has not announced whether it intends to follow that recommendation. It is not required of states to do so.

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