NC hospitals urged to ‘ramp up’ injections over fears feds will reduce vaccine supply

Coronavirus

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)– North Carolina state health officials are urging vaccine providers to “ramp up” injections over fears the federal government will send fewer future doses if they don’t.

“We had to make difficult allocation decisions in order to clear our backlog of first doses,” North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen wrote in a letter, obtained by FOX 46 reporter Matt Grant, “and provide strong proof that North Carolina can exhaust our weekly first dose allotments and give vaccinations quickly.”

In the four-page letter, send to Tuesday to all vaccine provider in the state, Cohen expressed concern over future vaccine allotment from the federal government. Cohen describes the “pressure” the state is getting from the Biden administration, which has threatened to reduce the state’s already short supply if current doses aren’t used up.

“We faced a new pressure when the federal government indicated that they might reduce this coming week’s allocations to states who have larger amounts of unused supply on hand,” Cohen wrote.

Cohen urged hospitals to it is “critical” to “ramp up” injections and use “all our first doses during the week we receive them.”

“That is our goal,” Cohen told reporters at a virtual news conference. “To run out of vaccines every week before our next shipment comes. And that’s what we have directed our local health departments and hospitals [to do].”

The need to exhaust current supplies, and the potential for the state to receive even fewer doses going forward, explains sudden mass vaccination events like one planned for Bank of America stadium this week. Cohen says that was approved to “further avoid a potential in federal vaccine distribution.” She admits it also led to “the reduction of available vaccine for other providers.”

The Lincoln County Health Department is one of those providers, which received zero does this week.

“We’re stuck,” said Joyce Self, who came to the health department looking for a vaccine for her and her husband, Bobby. “Can’t find anywhere to get it.”

Bobby, 73, has several lung conditions, including COPD and asthma which puts him at high risk for complications to the coronavirus. Despite that, the couple said they can’t get an appointment to get the vaccine due to low supply.

“We’ve called everywhere about,” he said.

“This is probably the third or fourth place we’ve been to in person,” said Joyce, referring to the Lincoln County Health Department, which told her to try the hospital, she said.

Cohen told reporters mega vaccine events “constrained our allocation even more.”

The state says it will reserve 89,550 doses out of 127,125 to distribute to providers over the next three weeks to ensure a consistent vaccine supply. Providers have complained that finding out how much supply they will receive on a week to week basis has made it difficult to schedule appointments.  

While the amount of vaccine the state has received over the past few weeks have been stable, Cohen warned there “is no certainty” supplies will remain that way past January.

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