NCDHHS apologizes after county health departments, hospitals receive fewer vaccine doses than expected

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services apologized after health departments and hospitals received fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than they expected. Dr. Mandy Cohen said she would give them more notice of how many doses they can expect.

Health directors across the state and in Eastern North Carolina spoke to Cohen on Monday on a conference call. Onslow County Manager Sharon Russell said Cohen proposed letting counties know how many doses they would receive for a three-week period instead of week-to-week allocations.

State officials said they still have plans to put most of the vaccine doses it gets to mass vaccination events. Those plans were outlined in a letter sent to vaccine providers that was sent out by Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday.

Russell said she was not happy with the state’s plan. She said at this rate, it will take years to vaccinate everyone. She said she’s also frustrated that the state keeps changing the distribution plan.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that they really have no effective plan for how to distribute vaccine,” Russell said. “It is difficult to set up the kind of structure we have set up to be able to effectively vaccinate between 500 and a thousand people a day and to not be able to get the supply.”

Several health departments and hospitals in central North Carolina also said they received less than half of the allotment they expected.

“This is the third week in a row,” Todd McGee said.

McGee is the Director for Orange County Community Relations. He said they have no new first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to distribute.

“It means we’re fielding a lot of calls and emails (from people) wanting to know when they’re going to get their vaccine and why we’re not moving quicker,” McGee said.

Cape Fear Valley Health said it was in a similar situation. It requested 10,000 first doses and only received 5,000 — and that was after an appeal.

“We didn’t have to cancel any appointments. We had to reduce our schedule,” said Chris Tart, the Vice President of Professional Services at Cape Fear Valley Health.

Those doses diverted to two mass vaccination events in Charlotte. One was held this past weekend. Another is planned for this upcoming weekend. It’s meant to speed up distribution.

The North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors fired back in a letter to Cohen.

“This decision has left many communities without much-needed vaccine… grandmothers and grandfathers who had appointments in rural North Carolina now wait… no health department should ever receive a zero allocation.”

“The state is doing the best they can because they also have limited foresight into what is coming from the federal government,” Tart said.

The North Carolina Healthcare Association had some ideas.

“The state should implement an equitable and predictable vaccine allocation plan, urge the federal government to immediately provide a more predictable number of weekly doses and have then provide a supply to support mass vaccine events,” a letter to Cooper said.

CBS 17 reached out to Cooper’s office for his response.

“The Governor’s top priority is getting vaccines out quickly and equitably. The state has directed vaccines to all 100 counties and deployed high-throughput sites. Unused vaccine here could lead federal authorities to cut future allotments, so NCDHHS has pushed providers to exhaust North Carolina’s supply of first doses. However, the reality is that there is not enough vaccine here for those eligible and we need more. North Carolina providers have shown they can distribute more than double the state’s current weekly allotment ​and the Governor will continue to urge federal officials to make more vaccine available.”

In response to CBS 17’s request, NCDHHS said: “Will be sharing tomorrow more detailed guidance on the process for allocations for the coming weeks to ensure more transparency and certainty now that the state has largely exhausted the backlog of vaccine supply.”

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