Health leaders say ENC is a long way from herd immunity from COVID-19


GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — State health leaders in Raleigh are preparing to welcome President Joe Biden this Thursday. He’s expected to encourage North Carolinians to get the COVID-19 shot in his push for herd immunity.

“Where we’re at right now, we’re not even close, we’re 50% at best,” said Dr. Paul Cook of the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine.

Biden wants 70% of adults vaccinated by July 4, a goal local experts in Eastern North Carolina think is lofty.

“I don’t think the 70% by July 4th is a reasonable goal for us,” said Craven County Health Director Scott Harrelson.

The mad dash for the shot at the beginning of the year has dwindled, just when leaders are trying to ramp it up.

“Why you think about 50% are vaccinated, that means that out of every two people, one of them will have that protection, and again we’re just trying to build that barricade,” said Lenoir County Health Director Pamela Brown.

Brown is hoping her county will pass the 50% threshold soon. Around 40% of adults in her area have at least one COVID shot.

“I know it’s not the end goal, but I think it’s the best next step for Lenoir County residents to have in their mind,” said Brown.

In Craven County, it’s a similar story with 40% of adults with at least one shot.

“It’s still smoldering, it’s still out there,” said Harrelson. “We’re seeing less than 40 first doses per week. Now of course we’ve got some second doses coming in, so we may do over 100 in a day’s time.”

A longer road to herd immunity means more people are susceptible to new and dangerous variants of the virus. Some health leaders say they don’t care what it takes, as long as more people get the shot.

“If they provide some more of these inducements which sound silly sometimes, giving a free beer if you get vaccinated, or getting a chance to win the lottery, as easy as it sounds, that stuff works,” said Cook.

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