Mega vaccination sites ramp up as local supplies dwindle

North Carolina has moved toward large scale COVID-19 vaccination sites as counties have seen a dramatic cutback in the number of vaccine doses, Health Director Robert Wittmann said in a meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners Tuesday. Local health officials are calling attention to other vaccination options as less than 400 doses a week for the next three weeks have been allocated to Moore County by the state. 

In recent weeks, so-called mega-sites have popped up in major cities across North Carolina. At the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, 20,000 doses were given last weekend. Before that, Charlotte Motor Speedway saw 15,000 people get vaccinated. Durham is also planning a mass vaccination event later this month. 

Closer to Moore County, a drive-thru mass-vaccination site has been set up at the Crown Complex in Fayetteville. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 910-678-7657 or online. Anyone age 65 and older, regardless of where they live, can register.

“I want to get it in people’s bodies as quickly as we can,” Wittmann said. “My advice is wherever you can get your vaccination, the sooner the better.”

He also pointed out that the second dose of the vaccine needs to be the same as the first and should be administered at the same location, requiring a return trip.

Currently in North Carolina, healthcare workers, long-term care staff and residents, along with anyone 65 and older are eligible to be vaccinated. The next group will be front-line essential workers, including people like teachers, first responders and grocery workers.

Local vaccine supply cut back 

“We went from a faucet that was a trickle, to now it is turned down to just dripping. We need it turned on like a fire hose,” Wittmann told the commissioners.

Board of Commissioners Chair Frank Quis pointed out that unlike other counties that have a younger demographic, 25% of the population of Moore County is age 65 and older. “It is so frustrating because our state partners know what the demographics are in Moore County,” said Quis.  “I’m not happy to be cut back in the number of vaccines available for this vulnerable population.”    

Supply not equal to demand

Even with a shift toward mega-sites, the limited supply of vaccines has not kept up with demand as the age group eligible for vaccination expanded from those age 75 and older to those 74 – 65. Pfizer and Modera, the makers of COVD-19 vaccines, have said that manufacturing vaccines is at full capacity, and there are not enough doses to meet the growing demand. But that may change.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine nears approval

A third vaccine, this one from Johnson & Johnson, is expected to be approved for nation-wide use soon. Unlike the other vaccines, it requires one dose and only needs normal refrigeration.

Recently, Johnson & Johnson announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. It also prevented hospitalization or death from the virus a month after patients took the shot, the company said.

According to Wittmann, if Johnson & Johnson comes on line, it will allow for the expansion of the local vaccination program.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter John Patota.

File photo of Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann addressing county commissioners.

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