Aging Well

Living through the Ups and Downs of Vaccine Distribution

While it may seem to many that the rollout of the vaccine in NC is impossibly slow, week after week, the numbers provide a deeper story.

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Christian Emmer/CC BY-NC 4.0
Liisa Ogburn
There is no accounting for how many hours thousands of North Carolinians have waited on hold to secure an appointment for the COVID vaccines being distributed weekly to each state. Nor is there any means of capturing the desperation, frustration and anger many are feeling to read that a number of hospitals are diverting the vaccines held for appointments to mass vaccination events, as reported yesterday in the News and Observer. NOTE: Not all hospitals are doing so. Unless you hear otherwise, go to your scheduled appointment.

Furthermore, many wonder why North Carolina is often cited as ranking in the bottom half of the nation in terms of the speed with which they are distributing and administering the vaccine. (This week, NC is #32 on the list.)

Yes, we all wish that the supply was there to meet the overwhelming need. Add to that the heightened emotional state many are in and it can feel overwhelming.

However, I think it would be useful to recount here just how quickly North Carolina has risen to this challenge. According to the CDC Vaccine Tracker, NC administered 109,799 doses over the course of the first 28 days there was vaccine available. In other words, between December 14, 2020 and January 11, 2021, North Carolina administered 3,921 vaccines/day. In the next six days, between January 11 and January 17, NC administered an additional 198,025 vaccines, or an average of 33,004/day. (Some of this increase is likely due to the backend reporting glitches.) By the way, it's worth noting that that is more than eight times the amount administered per day during the first four weeks. Between January 18 and today (over the course of nine days), NC has administered an additional 368,213 vaccines, or on average 61,368/day.

All of us remember the early days of getting tested for COVID, a complicated process often involving a medical order or screening and finding a place that had an open appointment. This does not even include the backlog in getting results back, sometimes as late as 8-10 days later.

Yes, it is a cumbersome task to get an appointment for the vaccine, whether you go through the hospital, the county health department or seek mass vaccination events in other counties.

But the barriers are being addressed, the systems being smoothed out and more groups and monies are being tapped to help.

As of January 26, according to the CDC Vaccine Tracker, NC has received 1,246,600 doses of the COVID vaccine (enough to provide one dose to 12% of its population of 10.5 Million. NC has administered 676,037 doses (54% of the doses received). Of those 676,037, 86,064 were second doses. Six percent of the population has received their first dose.

I imagine that, with each week, just as we experienced with COVID testing, distribution and administration will become smoother, faster, and more efficient.

How can we as individuals aide the process? Perhaps one way is when we do see vaccination appointments open up, we can help those who qualify make an appointment. There are undoubtedly some who will need transportation to their vaccination appointments. On the flip side, two ways that we can impede the process is to stoke our impatience or take out our frustrations on those people trying to get everyone scheduled.

The vaccinations are coming. Keep an eye on the NC DHHS website for places to call, as well as further announcements.

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