Wilson County health department’s vaccination model being used as example nationwide


WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) – As health departments across North Carolina struggle to keep up with the demand for vaccinations, the efforts of one central North Carolina health department are being used as a model across the country.

“We opened up 100 appointments this morning and they filled up in two hours,” said Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen.

Despite only 25 active COVID-19 cases in Wilson County, Ellen said her department is facing the same challenges as health departments across the state.

“We all have a limited amount of vaccine at this point, but we have been steady administering our doses to our community,” Ellen said.

With a large number of vaccines on hand, Ellen organized a mass vaccination drive-thru at Fike High School with the goal to deliver 1,000 doses.

“Things were running so well that by 11 a.m., we had essentially administered our first allocation,” Ellen said. “We quickly said we’re here, and setup, so we can give twice as much as we originally planned.”

By the end of the day, a team of volunteers vaccinated over 2,000 people. Ellen said the key was weeks of planning between the health department, local responders, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and even the ROTC.

“Not one of us can do this alone,” Ellen said. “We have to be in it together.”

That collaboration helped Wilson County eliminate its backlog in a single day.

“Ultimately, that’s what’s going to get us back to some sense of normal,” Ellen said.

Ellen’s plan is now being shared as a statewide model. She admitted she faces the same challenges spelled out in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen from the North Carolina Health Care Association.

“Our number of doses allocated each week are different,” Ellen said. “This week, we weren’t allocated any new doses, but we’re hopeful we’ll receive an allocation next week.”

Despite the uncertainty with vaccine allocations, Ellen is already putting plans in place for a mass vaccination clinic for Wilson County residents to receive their second shot on Feb. 10.

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