Local News

NC could vaccinate extra 80,000 people a week if it got more doses

Posted February 8, 2021 7:02 p.m. EST

— North Carolina could be vaccinating tens of thousands more people against coronavirus than those who are currently getting shots every week.

This week, about 2,100 people will get vaccinated at PNC Arena as Wake County works through a waiting list of about 80,000 people age 65 or older. Those on the waiting list would more than fill the seats at PNC and neighboring Carter-Finley Stadium combined.

“Vaccine is going to take a very long time to get to everyone," said Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

While North Carolina gets 145,000 first doses of the vaccine from the federal government each week – both of the two approved vaccines require two doses – health providers across the state have the ability to give 225,000 first shots, according to state officials.

"We get new vaccine from the federal government once per week, generally on Wednesdays," Cohen said. "When that comes in on a Wednesday, they are vaccinating Thursday, Friday [and] Saturday, and generally, they are out by the weekend.”

Wake County gets 10,850 doses a week to split among the county health department and local hospitals. But the county and the hospitals have a combined capacity to administer 13,830 shots each week.

Similar situations can be seen in neighboring counties:

  • Durham County could be vaccinating 13,535 people a week, but the state is sending just 3,250 doses there.
  • In Orange County, there’s space and staff to vaccinate more than 9,000 people a week, but only 1,275 doses are coming in.
  • Harnett County has capacity for 3,125 doses, but only 1,200 are received each week.
  • Chatham County can give 1,575 shots per week but gets only 600 doses.

"Every [vaccination] provider we have heard from nearly across the board says, 'I can do more' than what I am able to give them. Some of them can do three, four, five times as much as we able to give,” Cohen said. "What we’ve really been focusing on is to get vaccine out to all 100 counties of North Carolina, to make sure we are balancing that by population so it is in every location.”

The partnership with PNC Arena could bring even more vaccine to Wake County, as the mass vaccination site is expected to attract people from across the region and the state.

"Things like building a PNC site or opening additional sites is really our way of ensuring our capacity outraces the allocation we receive from the state," said Ryan Jury, who is coordinating the county's vaccination effort.

Jury said Wake County would like to scale the PNC clinic up to 10,000 shots next week, but state officials haven't yet approved sending extra doses to do that.

Cohen said that the state's steady weekly vaccine allocation will make it hard to speed up vaccinations beyond what's now being done. But she said supply could ramp up next month if federal officials approve

a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

.

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