RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina’s top health official made a stop in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley was invited to speak on a White House panel about the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts.

Close to 17 million doses of the vaccine have gone into arms in the state. During the panel, Kinsely said challenging health inequities is a priority.

“What we found that really worked was being able to see where we wanted to go,” said Kinsley.

In its vaccine distribution strategy, the state used U.S. Census tracts to map, allocate and promote vaccination. It also recorded demographic information for all vaccine recipients. The CDC recognized these efforts in a report last year.

At that time, the CDC report noted, “These strategies could also be considered by public health officials in other states and communities to further increase equity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and coverage, including among racial and ethnic populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”

“We closed the gap as far as vaccinating our Hispanic community, our LatinX community and we nearly closed the gap in our Black, African American community,” Kinsley said during Tuesday’s panel discussion.

More work ahead

However, he knows there’s more work to do.

In North Carolina, among the least vaccinated groups are the American Indian/Alaskan Native and Black/African American population. They are 33 percent and 52 percent vaccinated, respectively.

Nationally, 74 percent of the American Indian/Alaskan Native and 49 percent of Black/African American population are vaccinated.

Kinsley believes continuing to use community organizations to reach unvaccinated people is key.

“I think we’ve got to get the conversation about vaccinations less coming from people like me and more from trusted resources,” he said.

While the panel looks to the future of COVID vaccines, Kinsley is also focusing on our latest threat—monkeypox. He’s concerned about the difference in resources and funding between COVID and monkeypox so far.

“I want to use some of that for monkeypox and I can’t because those dollars aren’t monkeypox dollars,” he explained.

Comparing NC’s vaccine push

Across the country, 79 percent of eligible people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. In North Carolina, that percentage is lower with 67 percent of people receiving at least one dose.

How good the state is doing with its vaccine push depends on the state’s you’re comparing it to.

Among the state’s neighbor’s North Carolina is doing better than all but one state in its vaccine push.

At least 1 doseFully vaccinated