Local News

Wake County continues to struggle with supply to meet vaccine demand

Posted January 20, 2021 6:14 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2021 7:57 p.m. EST

While other county public health departments are vaccinating thousands of people each day against the novel coronavirus, those numbers in Wake County are only in the hundreds.

Wake County began registering those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine – health care workers and anyone 65 and over – on Tuesday. It was an inauspicious start, with the website stalling and phone lines jammed.

About 500 people got their first dose of the vaccine Wednesday at the health department on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh. That is a small fraction of the 40,000 eligible people who registered their interest in the shot.

Those who manage to get through could still face a wait of weeks or months before their appointment, according to Johnna Sharpe, the county chief operating officer.

Matt Calabria, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, said, "We can handle additional vaccines. We simply don’t have enough vaccines coming in at this point."

Of the 5,850 doses Wake County received this week, only 16 percent actually went to the county health department. The rest will be distributed by health care organizations like WakeMed, UNC Rex Hospital, Duke Raleigh Hospital and WakeBrook Behavioral Health, and those hospitals are prioritizing vaccinations for their employees.

"The determining factor is really the quantity of the vaccine," Sharpe said. "The most vaccine quantity we've received in a single week of first doses is right around 2,000, so that's less than 10 percent of those people who signed up yesterday."

Public health departments in other counties got a greater number of shots because those counties are home to fewer hospitals.

Wake County officials expect their piece of the pie to increase, as more health care workers become vaccinated and the priority shifts to other groups.

"We understand that the public is frustrated," Sharpe said. "They are probably only half as frustrated as we are."

Aware of the challenges, some Wake County residents are crossing county borders to get their vaccine sooner elsewhere.

"Honestly, I think you should go wherever you think you can get it most quickly," Sharpe said.

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