NC’s COVID-19 vaccine rates increase, but still plenty of room for improvement, federal data show

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — While its COVID-19 vaccination rates have improved significantly over the past week, North Carolina and several other southeastern states continue to lag behind the rest of the nation, federal data show.

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed Wednesday showed the state has distributed more than 40 percent of its allotment of vaccine — a marked improvement from a week ago, when it was at 31 percent.

But North Carolina is one of a dozen states — including six in a Southeastern swath from Virginia to Mississippi — that has given out the fewest on a per capita basis.

North Carolina has given out just 3,821 doses for every 100,000 people, ranking in the bottom quartile nationally. Georgia and Alabama are the bottom two, each administering fewer than 3,000 shots per capita.

Among those six states, North Carolina ranks in the middle of the pack in terms of the percentage of its doses that have been given. South Carolina has given out 53 percent of its allotment while at the other extreme, Alabama has given just 29 percent.

North Carolina also lags behind similarly sized states that received similarly sized vaccine allocations. By comparison, Michigan has administered 62 percent of its allotment, and New Jersey (61 percent), Illinois (51 percent), Pennsylvania (51 percent) and Ohio (49 percent) all have rates that exceed North Carolina’s.

RTI International epidemiologist Dr. Pia MacDonald says she is seeing significant variation from one state to another.

“A state gets the vaccine and distributes it, and then it’s up to who has the vaccine and their ability to quickly move people in and out of their clinical settings,” MacDonald said. “So that’s where we’re going to see a lot of variation in terms of the ability to do mass vaccinations at these different locations all across the counties of North Carolina.

“So we will see variation, because not everyone has a giant health system to take advantage of, to move people in and out of these vaccination clinics, whereas the rural health departments on point to do this might not have the resources of a larger health care system,” she added. 

Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist who was vaccinating people Wednesday at the University of North Carolina’s Friday Center, said part of the problem in the state was “halting supplies of vaccine that were limiting our ability to vaccinate people.

“We just weren’t sure how much we were getting,” he said. “We were getting allotments that really were disappointing, but I have to say over the last week or so, we certainly have seen a lot more vaccine come our way.”

CDC data show the state received about 150,000 more doses of vaccine over the past week, and the agency also said the total number of shots given also increased by roughly that amount during that time frame.

“We know how to get it into people’s arms, and we’re getting more, which I think is great,” Wohl said “We just have to have it keep coming.”

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