RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Federal officials said Sunday the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has begun to improve after a slow start, while North Carolina prepares to move into the next phase of distributing the doses.
The state will enter in Phase 1B this week, making the vaccine available to people who are 75 years and older. However, supplies continue to be limited, making it uncertain precisely when each county will be able to begin that process.
Last week, the state revised its distribution plan to better align with CDC guidelines. To see the revised prioritization list, click here.
Gaston County officials say they’ll begin making COVID-19 vaccines available to anyone 75 and older on Friday at the Gastonia Farmer’s Market. Details have not been released.
In Wake County, officials say it’s not clear when they’ll begin Phase 1B, as they’re still trying to get through Phase 1A, which includes hospital employees working with COVID-19 patients and people in long-term care facilities.
“I would love to say that we would be much further down the road than we are now, but I’m also still very much amazed at the work that those people who are running these programs,” said Ryan Jury, clinical vaccine liaison with Wake County Public Health. “We also want to make sure that these doses are safe and effective. So, I don’t want to say give me faster doses without making sure they’re safe and effective.”
About 330,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to North Carolina as of Saturday, according to the CDC. Of those, 94,865 doses have been administered to people, the agency reported, which is about 29 percent of distributed doses.
Nationally, the U.S. has administered about one-third of the doses distributed, the CDC said.
About 4.2 million people across the country have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, which is below the goal of 20 million Trump administration officials had hoped to vaccinate by the end of 2020.
“The current administration has not done a good job rolling out the vaccines, getting them delivered to where they need to be and helping the states get them in the arms of the people who need them,” said Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC 6th District), who was sworn into office Sunday.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui was asked about the rollout on Face the Nation on CBS Sunday.
“We need to improve,” he said. “Twenty million doses of vaccines as we had promised would be made available to the American public to be immunized with have been made available. Seventeen-and-a-half million have been shipped.”
He said he expects the pace of vaccinations to pick up after the holidays. He noted in the last three days there were 1.5 million doses administered.
Hospitals have simultaneously been dealing with a surge of COVID-19 patients while trying to administer shots to people, health officials noted.
The rollout of the next phase begins as the state sets new records on some of the key COVID-19 metrics and as health officials worry about the numbers rising even higher due to people gathering for the holidays.
On Sunday, there were 3,576 people in hospitals across North Carolina, which is a new record and an increase of 97 since Saturday, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
On New Year’s Eve, the state also set a new record of 9,527 new COVID-19 cases reported in a 24-hour period, the first time that number exceeded 9,000 since the pandemic began.