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Vaccine supply starting to outpace demand as NC makes all adults eligible

Posted April 6, 2021 9:27 a.m. EDT
Updated April 6, 2021 7:20 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that officials across North Carolina need to make a concerted push to get more people vaccinated against coronavirus, with vaccine supply outstripping demand in some areas.

Cooper's statement comes as North Carolina makes vaccinations available to anyone 16 or older on Wednesday.

More than 5.2 million vaccinations have been administered statewide since mid-December, and more than a quarter of adults are now fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly two-thirds of people age 65 or older are fully vaccinated, DHHS data shows.

North Carolina's vaccine allotment also jumped this week, as the state received 149,800 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, up from 58,800 last week. Although fewer doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being sent to the state, North Carolina's overall allotment this week is 10 percent greater than last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also announced Tuesday that North Carolina will receive $94.7 million to support efforts to increase vaccination rates and ensure greater equity and access to vaccines by those disproportionately affected by the virus. The award is part of $3 billion in funding from the latest pandemic relief package that the CDC granted to 64 areas to bolster broad-based vaccine distribution, access and administration efforts.

"We're going to have plenty of supply to get every person vaccinated who wants a vaccine," Cooper said during an afternoon news conference. "Pretty soon, we're going to be pushing [and] encouraging people to get it because ... we need to push up the demand until we get as many people vaccinated as possible."

"The quicker we vaccinate everyone, the safer we all are as a state," DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen agreed.

North Carolina reported 870 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the fewest since Oct. 4. The state has averaged about 1,600 cases a day over the last week, which is about 14 percent lower than a week ago.

But the number of people hospitalized across the state with COVID-19 remains steady at just under 1,000, and the percentage of positive coronavirus tests has risen for six straight days and was at 7 percent on Tuesday.

COVID-19 County Alert System

The state's metrics have stabilized to the point where officials had to add two levels to the county alert system on viral spread.

For the first time since the alert system was created last fall, no counties are considered "red zones," with critical levels of spread, and only 21 are "orange zones," with substantial spread. Forty-seven counties are in what was previously the lowest level of the system, the "yellow zones" with significant spread.

Officials added a "light yellow zone," with moderate viral spread, and 31 counties moved into that category. Alleghany County became the state's first "green zone," with low levels of spread.

"The more people we vaccinate, the more we can safely do," Cooper said, noting that he expects to have a forecast on the state's pandemic-related restrictions this summer in the next week or two. "We're so close, and every day counts."

Cohen encouraged people to look at nearby counties for available vaccination appointments that are accessible to them sooner than waiting for a local provider. The state is spreading its vaccine allotment among more doctors' offices and pharmacies, she said, to get wider dispersal and give people who are hesitant about getting a shot a chance to talk to a trusted health care professional.

"We are one state together. We want to get all the folks in North Carolina vaccinated," she said.

Eastern Carolina Medical Center, a pharmacy in Benson, is among the local providers vaccinating people. In the past six weeks, Ritesh Patel estimated, he and his team have administered about 12,000 shots.

"We are blessed to have these patients be able to trust us," Patel said.

The pharmacy got its largest weekly allotment to date this week, with 4,800 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 1,800 of the Moderna vaccine and an untold number of the Pfizer vaccine, he said.

Nearly 14 percent of adults in Johnston County are fully vaccinated, according to DHHS data.

The state's move to open up vaccinations to all adults comes nearly two weeks ahead of President Joe Biden's goal to make vaccines eligible for adults in all U.S. states by April 19.

Everyone 16 and older will be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone 18 and older can receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Some providers and counties, including the Wake County Health Department, are already allowing all adults to sign up for vaccines, although doses may be prioritized for people in higher-priority groups who have not yet received their shots.

Other counties, like Johnston County, are holding drive-thru clinics with no appointment required. A mass clinic will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday at North Johnston High School in Kenly for all groups. The event will run until supplies run out.

WRAL News is updating daily a list of vaccine clinics and options across central North Carolina. Install the WRAL News app and enable alerts to get notified when and where shots are available.

WRAL reporter Keely Arthur and WRAL multiplatform producer Jessica Patrick contributed to this report.

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