State health directors demanding fair share of COVID-19 vaccinations in email to state leaders

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Onslow County officials are ramping up their vaccination process, making sure they’re using every dose they get, but they’re also demanding the state revise how it divides up COVID-19 vaccines after a major setback.

The state sent emails to local departments on Jan. 18, promising them more vaccines, but only after they used up what they already had in stock.

“We were anticipating that we would get more vaccine, that we earned, we’d done what they said,” said Scott Harrelson, Craven County Public Health Director.

For the week of Jan. 25, Onslow and Craven County’s shipments are being cut short. Craven County received more than 1,000 fewer doses than they needed. Onslow Memorial Hospital got nothing. Local officials got a separate email on Friday, showing the state has just 120,000 doses for all of North Carolina this week.

State leaders say most of those doses will go to large-scale vaccination centers like the ones in Raleigh or Charlotte.

“Senior citizens in our area cannot drive all the way to Charlotte or Raleigh and sit in line in a car all day,” said Sharon Russell, Onslow County Manager.

Russell argues that these mega-sites don’t always vaccinate more people. She praised the health care workers and team in Onslow County for being able to triple their capacity to give vaccinations through an appointment system.

“By the end of (Monday), we will have vaccinated more than 6,000 people, and we have the clinical operation capacity to now vaccinate 1,000 people every day with no waiting in cars. Our entire process, including watching people for reactions in person, takes about 30 minutes total for citizens when they arrive for their appointment,” said Russell.

Health directors across the state outlined their frustrations in an email, explaining the effort health workers put into using all the vaccine they get.

“People of the counties in the rural areas of our state including Eastern North Carolina are important enough to get this vaccine,” said Russell.

County officials are seeking their fair share of vaccines. Health directors have a list of demands, including:

  • more transparency
  • better communications
  • realistic timelines
  • more input from local governments
  • and guaranteed vaccine shipments

“They have sent us additional staff. They’ve helped us do the work, so for that, I’m grateful. Just wish we had the vaccine too,” said Harrelson.

Because of the shortage in vaccinations, Onslow County officials are calling people to reschedule their appointments. County leaders also ask the state to not change the rules so this doesn’t happen. County managers and health directors planned to talk with NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen Monday afternoon.

9OYS reached out to the doctor’s office for answers but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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