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Community leaders address concern over slow vaccine rollout as more than 80% of Wake County doses head straight to hospitals

Posted January 22, 2021 5:28 p.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2021 9:27 a.m. EST

Across North Carolina, more than 625,000 COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, according to the state which is responsible for distributing the doses to each county.

The roll out – which has been slower than in other states – is starting to pick up its pace. Still, there’s a lot of confusion and frustration about where the vaccines are actually going.

In Wake County, more than four out of every five doses have been distributed to hospitals, a higher percentage than other counties.

Here’s how the process has been working:

  1. The federal government gives doses to the state.
  2. From there, North Carolina determines how many go to each county. Mecklenburg, Wake and Durham have gotten the most.
  3. From there, it’s the state, still, that decides which factions within the county receive vaccinations.
  4. The Mecklenburg and Durham County Health Departments received over 20 percent of the doses in their counties, while in Wake, 83 percent went right to hospitals, about 1 percent to Central Prison and just 16 percent to the county itself to administer. Since Jan. 18th, the state has given Wake County 39,025 doses of the vaccine and the hospitals received 32,200 of them, leaving the county with 6,825.

Health care organizations like WakeMed, UNC Rex Hospital, Duke Raleigh Hospital say the vaccines don’t stay in the hospitals. They’re spread across a variety of community providers in the county.

"We’ve placed such an emphasis on trying to get independent, small practices, large practices, safety net practices and primary care practices set up on that program so they’re ready, willing and able to take allocation," said Dr. Chris DeRienzo, the chief medical officer at WakeMed.

That offers another avenue for the vaccine for eligible people who aren't hospital employees or patients.

Sarah Avery, director of Duke's Health News Office, said, "You do not need to be a current Duke Health patient to be vaccinated at Duke. We are running a large site at Duke Raleigh Hospital that is open seven days a week and vaccinating more than 700 people per day. We have also made vaccinations available at four Duke Primary Care sites – Holly Springs, Heritage, Leesville and Arringdon – which add another 380 vaccinations a day. All of those sites are vaccinating both Duke and non-Duke patients."

For information about getting a vaccine at Duke Raleigh, call 919-385-0429 and choose option 2.

UNC Rex also have a phone line: 984-215-5485.

WakeMed reports they administered 3,000 shots this last week while UNC Rex says they gave about 1,600 shots over the past week.

Coronavirus vaccinations in NC

"I think that model will be more sustainable in the long term," said DeRienzo.

"We’re not really a vaccine clinic by trade," said Dr. Linda Butler, the chief medical officer at UNC Rex. "I think we can support it in a number of ways. We’ll run a clinic until we get our coworkers and community health workers vaccinated, but this is not something we can do for years on end."

When asked to grade the state’s plan, both doctors declined, though Butler quipped, "an A for effort."

"Everyone’s trying really hard," said Butler. "We’ve never had to do something this logistically complex. "

"This has been a roller coaster with problems that there’s no playbook for," DiRienzo said. "If the county or state were my patients, I’d say that I have only seen our health getting better and better these last two weeks."

The state, as a whole, has improved in terms of vaccine distribution over the last two weeks. The administration rate has increased from a quarter to now, over 54 percent.

Wake County community leaders addressed questions Friday night over the frustration people have involving the vaccine roll out.

After a quick introduction, the panel went straight into information mode.

It was stressed that getting the vaccine in right now comes down to simple supply and demand. The session lasted about an hour in an attempt to answer questions, but it became clear right now the county just doesn’t have a lot of answers until more supply comes in.

“The most important factor in all of this is supply and demand,” panel member Matt Calabria said. "Every dose received in Wake County quickly finds an arm. Period.”

Wake County is not opposed to residents looking outside the county for the vaccine. The panel confirmed that once more vaccines come in, high-capacity site like PNC Arena are being evaluated as locations for mass vaccinations.

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