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Mountain counties have greater concentration of 75+; vaccine rollout slow

Posted January 8, 2021 12:25 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2021 6:52 p.m. EST

— While some county health departments have started vaccinating community members who are 75 years and older, more urban counties like Durham and Wake are still in the very first phase – 1A – of COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Across North Carolina, there are more than 704,000 people who are 75 and older, according to recent census information. That's only about 7 percent of the state population.

Some counties have significantly higher populations of people who fall into that group. In Polk County, they make up 15 percent of the population. Transylvania, Clay, Macon and Cherokee counties also have higher-than-average rates of people 75 and older.

In Hoke County, only about 2,000 of 55,000 people are over age 75, about 3.5 percent.

No timeline to expand vaccinations in Durham County

On Friday morning, Durham County Health Director Rod Jenkins told city and county leaders that while about 1,100 have gotten their first round of shots – mostly medical workers and first responders – that the process has been "slow going," and he could not estimate a date when the county would be ready for the next phase.

Jenkins put some of the blame on the process and some on the limited vaccine availability.

"The paperwork part of it is really kind of daunting right now because the system that they set up for vaccine management is not working as it should," he said.

But he is holding out hope that experience will improve the process.

"We do feel that once that comes online and it’s tweaked, it would make things a little bit easier," he said.

Durham, Orange seniors now have options to register for COVID vaccine

Durham County residents over age 75 do have one option for vaccination. Duke Health began offering vaccinations, by appointment, this week.

The health system asks that people first create an account using the Duke MyChart system or call the Duke COVID-19 hotline at 919-385-0429 any day between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for an appointment.

In Orange County, residents 75 and over can express interest in the vaccine online or by calling 919-913-8088 to register for an opportunity to get their shots as soon as next week. In the first 24 hours, the county said, more than 4,200 people had registered.

“Due to limited availability of vaccine, Orange County may not be able to schedule appointments for everyone who is eligible right away,” said Orange County Health Director Quintana Stewart. “Please be patient as we work through this process.”

Through Friday at noon, Orange County had distributed 999 doses of vaccine. Most went to health care personnel.

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