@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Rural lawmakers say too much of NC's vaccine going to mass vaccination sites

Posted February 12, 2021 4:11 p.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2021 7:18 p.m. EST

— Lawmakers from rural counties are calling on state health officials to hold off on more vaccination mega-sites until the state starts getting more vaccine, arguing that rural areas are being shortchanged.

More than 35,000 shots were administered at weekend vaccination clinics last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America Stadium, both in the Charlotte area.

Meanwhile, Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, said the coastal counties he represents saw their vaccine allocations cut.

"The vaccines are being taken away from other areas for mass vaccinations, and that’s a problem," Hanig said during a House Health committee meeting on Tuesday.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said that’s not the case.

Eighty percent of the roughly 150,000 doses the state gets each week is divided among North Carolina's 100 counties based on population.

"That ensures that all 100 counties are getting vaccine proportional to the folks who are in their counties. Cohen said. "So yes, our rural communities that do serve less folks do get less doses."

DHHS data shows Wake County has received fewer doses per person to date than many rural counties.

The remaining 20 percent of the state’s weekly allotment goes to other health care providers and events, including smaller mass vaccination sites like those at PNC Arena in Raleigh, in Johnston County and at Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville this week, she said.

State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson said the large-scale clinics were set up as North Carolina was starting up its program and trying to get shots into arms as quickly as possible.

"I think, in the beginning, when we were really trying to make sure we had a jumpstart on our speed, having these bigger sites was a really great way to get that kickstart," Tilson said.

Now that weekly supply has stabilized and county providers have increased what they can handle, the state is supplying a larger number of smaller mass vaccination sites, she said, including some in rural areas.

"We’re trying to balance speed and equity – geographic equity, racial equity," she said.

Counties also get a little more vaccine out of the 20 percent set-aside if they have higher populations of older people or people of color who are at higher risk from COVID-19 but are less likely to be vaccinated so far, Cohen said.

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