Local News

Durham County, approaching phase 1B, hopes to vaccinate 500,000 by Memorial Day

Posted January 11, 2021 4:05 p.m. EST
Updated January 12, 2021 7:50 a.m. EST

Race for the Vaccine

— With new daily COVID-19 cases in North Carolina near record highs, the process for rolling out vaccines is receiving more urgency.

But the promise of vaccines is moving more slowly in some counties than in others.

While some counties have begun vaccinating people ages 75 and older, Durham is still in Phase 1A, vaccinating healthcare workers and those in long-term care facilities. Only one-third of the vaccines have been given.

On Monday, Rodney Jenkins, Durham County's health director, said the county has access to both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and provided an update on where vaccine progress stands.

According to Jenkins, Durham has an ultra-cold storage freezer that is stocked with the Pfizer vaccine through a partnership with North Carolina Central University.

Durham County remains in phase 1A and will into phase 1B next week, Jenkins said. The county hopes to administer 500,000 doses by Memorial Day in conjunction with a partnership with Duke Health.

Durham County has received 3,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine, and as of Friday afternoon they had administered 810. About 16% was transferred to other medical facilities.

That means about 59% still remains on the shelves.

By comparison, Wake County has administered 2,479 out of the 3,900 doses, and is preparing to enter Phase 1B next week. Even so, Wake County is moving more slowly than other surrounding counties.

“We are taking our time to make sure that we are able to go into the next stage in a very safe and effective manner," said Jenkins.

Jenkins said each individual vaccination takes time and care – including a screening, maintaining space for social distancing and monitoring each vaccinated person for a safe amount of time before sending them home.

"I have seen news reports from other counties that have our beloved seniors waiting in long lines, getting up at 4 a.m. and waiting for hours to get the vaccine because of the high demand," he said.

"We do not want to have haphazardly taken care of our most vulnerable citizens. We want to make sure we do it the right way," he said.

Jenkins called the pace a balancing act between the scheduling, the screening, the documentation and the operations of the process – with one of the biggest concerns making sure no vaccines are wasted.

The health department has received doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will begin administering those this week.

Although the county’s health department has not started Phase 1B, Duke Health has started accepting appointments.

If you need more information about how to access a COVID vaccine in your county, WRAL has created a reference guide of county-by-county information.

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