Robeson officials shut off vaccine access to most SC residents
Posted February 22, 2021 8:07 p.m. EST
Updated February 23, 2021 10:47 a.m. EST
Lumberton, N.C. — More health departments in North Carolina are barring out-of-state residents from getting their coronavirus vaccinations in North Carolina.
Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Health and Human Services told local officials last week that they no longer had to offer shots to people who don't live, work or spend "significant time" in North Carolina.
The CDC had previously said states couldn't erect such barriers because the federal government was paying for the vaccine and distributing it to states.
Robeson County on Monday became the latest North Carolina county to restrict vaccinations to people who live or work in the state. The policy change involves only the county health department, however, as UNC Health Southeastern in Lumberton said it plans to continue vaccinating any patients it treats from South Carolina.
"Robeson, like many other counties, opted to go that route simply because we won't have enough vaccinations on hand to cover our population," said Melissa Packer, assistant county health director.
The county has vaccinated more than 9,000 people since it started administering shots on Dec. 31, Packer said, and fewer than a quarter came from South Carolina.
"We have seen a number of persons come across the state line, but I wouldn't necessarily say we're overrun. [It's] just a small percentage," she said.
Some Robeson County residents said they don't mind South Carolina residents crossing the state line to get vaccinated.
"If they can't get it [there], they need to get it somewhere. It doesn't matter where they come from," Lindsey Jacobs said.
"No problem whatsoever. If you want it, get it where you can get it," Billy Locklear said.
Anyone who lives out of state but who works in North Carolina regularly can still get vaccinated in Robeson County, Packer said, and the county will continue to provide second shots to those who received their first doses there.
A group of four people drove from Little River, S.C., on Monday to get their second shot in Lumberton. They said the vaccination process in South Carolina isn't smooth, so they took a road trip for what they called a quicker, more professional experience.
Up Interstate 95 in Cumberland County, where mass vaccination clinics at Crown Coliseum have drawn people from far and wide, health director Dr. Jennifer Green said the county has no plans to start restricting vaccinations to North Carolina residents.
"We will continue to vaccinate regardless of an individual's residency. However, we are limiting appointments to those that self-attest that they live or work in Cumberland County – this may include residents of South Carolina," Green said in a statement.