Why is North Carolina behind on vaccinations? The answer is complicated

Coronavirus

Jeanne Peters, 95, a rehab patient at The Reservoir, a nursing facility, was given the first COVID-19 vaccination in a Ct. nursing home Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in West Hartford, Conn. Administering the vaccine is Mary Lou Galushko, a CVS pharmacist form North Haven,left. Staff members showered her with confetti after the vaccine was given. At rear is Bob Atighechi, a CVS pharmacist from Rocky Hill. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn,POOL)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The slower-than-expected rollout of the vaccine is a complicated issue that will require more than one solution. Former FDA commissioner and current Duke University health policy director believed there is more than one reason for the lag.

“This is complicated; it is going to get better,” said Dr. Mark McClellan.

The director said while the country is not as far ahead as anticipated, he believes there are issues with inputting data and it may mean the state is slightly ahead than current numbers show.

“This is the most complex undertaking ever in the U.S. public health history in terms of the number of people who need to be reached, two vaccines, complex conditions for storing and transporting the vaccines, all in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency,” McClellan said.

Expanding vaccinations

McClellan said while the National Guard has been activated, there needs to be more coordination with the private sectors. Large pharmacies have online appointment systems in place and can help organize vaccinations according to McClellan.

Beyond hospitals, McClellan said the state should partner with local doctor’s offices and pharmacies that are not inundated with patients. They have the skills to vaccinate and can make up for the strain on staffing in hospitals. The strain on staffing as a result of high hospitalizations has not allowed some hospitals to vaccinate at full speed.

“It was envisioned that they’d become part of this process over time, but let’s accelerate that process,” McClellan said.

Tracking the gaps

A Pew Research Study says more Americans are now more likely to want a vaccine.

As people turn down the vaccine, it frees up doses for upcoming phases. McClellan said states need to track where vaccinations are and are not happening.

That reluctance is split between political and race issues. Past medical experimentation like the Tuskegee Study has created long term mistrust of the science community by some communities of color.

The CDC and the Ad Council both plan to start a public information campaign in the upcoming weeks to curb that reluctance.

“More public education and outreach around helping people get their doubts or concerns about the vaccine addressed and especially focused on lower income and higher risk communities where we’re already starting to see disparities emerge,” McClellan said.

Funding on the way

The recently approved CARES Act includes $8 billion to help with vaccine distribution. That money will go to states and local governments to get the vaccine to more people. The funds can be used to increase staffing, expand phone lines, or other tasks needed to organize vaccination clinics.

Joe Biden’s administration has already announced a goal of 1 million vaccinations a day in the first 100 days in office. So far only 17.2 million total vaccines have been administered nationwide.

“I think we can get to well over 1 million a day, maybe closer to a goal of 2 million a day. It is going to take a lot of action on all these fronts,” McClellan said.

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