More than 100,000 residents throughout the Triangle are still waiting to be vaccinated at public centers, roughly a month and half after North Carolina made the COVID-19 vaccine available.
Mandy Cohen, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said at a press conference Tuesday that President Joe Biden's administration approved a five-percent increase in vaccine doses to the state. She said it is undetermined how many additional doses that would add up to.
“We know that there’s still not enough vaccine supply to vaccinate the millions of people who need it — not by a long shot,” Gov. Roy Cooper said during the conference. “We’re pushing for more.”
Ever since vaccines became available to states, supply has been a concern. Medical professionals and N.C. residents hope a boost in vaccine doses will help ease their counties' waitlists.
Wake County has logged 78,862 individuals on its waitlist as of Wednesday afternoon, the highest among Triangle counties. The county is also the largest in the Triangle, with about 1.1 million people living there, according to the U.S. Census.
Stacy Beard, external communications manager for Wake County, welcomed the news about the increase in vaccine supply in an email.
“We hope it will mean increased allotments to Wake Public Health,” Beard wrote.
Beard said the large waitlist can be attributed to the number of vaccines North Carolina has allocated to counties. So far, Wake County has received 18,350 vaccines from the state and has 6,337 vaccination appointments scheduled for this week.
“We understand there are those who feel the rollout of the vaccine has been too slow — we continue to face extremely low supply and incredibly high demand," Beard said in the email.
Carole Tanzer Miller, a freelance writer and journalist who lives in Raleigh, said she drove more than an hour to receive her first vaccine dose in Wilson on Jan. 23.
She applied for waitlists across several counties — including Wake, Cumberland and Forsyth — before finally getting an appointment.
“It was easier to get a ticket to a Beatles concert at the height of their popularity than it was to get a goddamn COVID-19 shot," she said.
Orange County has the second-highest vaccine waitlist in the Triangle, with 17,675 individuals.
Kristin Prelipp, public information officer for the Orange County Health Department, said in an email that the Chapel Hill and Carrboro area has been overwhelmed by the demand for the vaccine.
Orange County, the smallest of the three counties with about 146,000 residents, received 600 first doses of the vaccine this week. The health department has administered 3,663 first doses to individuals and 2,191 second doses, according to its dashboard.
This number does not include private vaccine clinics, such as UNC Health and Piedmont HealthCare.
“A 5% increase in supply is welcome news,” Prelipp wrote.
“Once we really have a lot of supply, it will be just like your flu vaccine," she said. "You can go to your doctor. You can go to Walgreens. It’s just that the supplies are not high enough yet.”
Durham County Department of Public Health, which partners with Duke Health to provide vaccinations, has about 10,000 individuals on its waitlist as of Monday afternoon,Alecia Smith, the department's communications and public relations manager, said in an email.
Two weeks ago, the Durham County Department of Public Health was forced to pause appointment scheduling until further notice due to limited supply. No appointments were canceled or postponed, according to a Jan. 28 press release.
"Durham County has a baseline allocation of 600 first doses for the next three weeks, and we are uncertain when our allocation will increase," Health Director Rod Jenkins said in a statement. “It is best to halt scheduling until we are confident we will be able to fulfill additional appointments."
Catie Armstrong, a press assistant for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, said the state prioritizes vaccine doses for counties with high populations of those who are 65 and older and with historically marginalized communities.
“The goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible with very limited supply of vaccines,” Armstrong said in a statement.
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