RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN, WNCT)– North Carolina will change its vaccine distribution plan after some hospitals and health departments were allocated little or no new vaccine this week.
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state will shift away from a plan that emphasized speed, to population-based distribution.
“We asked all of our partners across the state to ramp up, and that wasn’t necessarily in an equal way across all counties,” she said.
Previously, the federal government said allocation would be based on how well states administered the doses they already had, according to Cohen.
Cohen says because North Carolina had a backlog of vaccine, NCDHHS rerouted doses to mega sites, like the Speedway in Charlotte and Bank of America Stadium, to speed of distribution.
“The feds control what goes to the states. They’re giving the states that are most efficient more doses. As a state we are not the most efficient in the country, so our doses are diminished,” said Dr. Michael Zappa with Cape Fear Valley Health.
That plan left some hospital and health departments with fewer or no new doses of vaccine this week, even though some had scheduled appointments.
“We know that our providers need as much stability as we can give them in what is a very unstable environment,” Cohen said in Tuesday’s press conference. “Providers will be given a baseline amount of first doses that they can expect for the next three weeks.
“Vaccine will be allocated to each county based on population and then divided among the county’s providers based on their vaccine capacity.”
Lenoir County’s health director, Pam Brown, said this helps providers create a clear plan.
“It’s hard sometimes to think about booking those appointments if you don’t know exactly what your allotment is going to be,” Brown said. “I think it creates some efficiencies and kind of lets you know the best use of staff.”
Some said they are still not happy with the state’s plans.
“They’re basing it on population, when we’re actually vaccinating folks from all over Eastern North Carolina,” Onslow County Manager Sharon Russell said. “We have a bit more of a demand than we have a supply.”
“At the rate we’re going now, it will take years and years to vaccinate people,” Russell said. “This is unacceptable. We had five people die yesterday in Onslow County from COVID-19.
“It’s becoming more and more clear that they really have no effective plan for how to distribute vaccine.”
Cape Fear Valley Hospital had COVID-19 vaccine allocation cut in half this week, despite being one of the most efficient distributors in the state, according to Zappa.
“It’s a cry for help. Just give us the vaccine. Let us do what we know how to do. We have proven it,” he said.
On Monday, two groups that advocate for hospitals and health departments sent letters to Governor Roy Cooper and Cohen outlining concerns with the state’s distribution plan and calling for doses to be spread out by population.
On Tuesday, Cohen announced the distribution strategy will change.
Of the 120,000 new doses North Carolina gets from the federal government each week, 84,000 will go to counties based on population. From there, doses will be distributed to providers based on throughput capacity.
The remaining 36,000 doses will be spread out to balance out inequities created by previous week’s distribution.
Cohen says as of Tuesday, North Carolina administered 95 percent of first doses it had on the shelves.
She’s hopeful that will encourage the Federal Government to increase the state’s allocation going forward.
“There may be some additional vaccine in our future. We have not gotten that definitively yet. I don’t think that’s going to be this week, but maybe in the coming weeks,” she said.