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Coronavirus news and updates about the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

NC Expects To Receive More COVID-19 Vaccine Next Week -- But How Much?

Roy Cooper
NC Department of Public Safety
NC Gov. Roy Cooper removes his face mask before speaking at a Dec. 8 press conference.

North Carolina is preparing to receive 175,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine next week if it receives FDA approval in the coming days, but Gov. Roy Cooper said he has asked the federal government for more time to determine which hospital and health systems receive shipments of the vaccine each week.

As it stands now, Cooper said in a Tuesday news conference, North Carolina will be told each Friday morning how many doses of Pfizer’s vaccine it will receive the following Monday – but the state has to tell the federal government where to send the shipment by 8 p.m. each Friday.

North Carolina does not yet know how much of Pfizer's vaccine it will be allotted next week.

Cooper said he raised this concern with Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Coronavirus Task Force, on Monday.

“I asked for more time to plan, which is critical, as our vaccines roll out across the state,” Cooper said. “And they said that they’ll work on it.”

While large hospitals like Atrium began administering the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen says the Moderna vaccine will be sent to smaller counties and health departments. She says it’s packaged in smaller units and doesn’t need to be kept as cold, allowing the state to have vaccines sent to all 100 counties.

“We tried to target the Pfizer vaccines to those that have a bit more of the ultra-cold storage capacity, had more pharmacies at the ready,” she said. “So for some of our smaller health departments we are targeting the Moderna vaccine because it’s a little more portable.”

Cohen and Cooper say they are asking the federal government to give them more time to plan for the next round of Pfizer vaccines.

“The more certainty we have with these numbers, it allows us to get in this planning of where should Pfizer versus Moderna go,” Cohen said. “(In terms of) how many doses - they all interact with each other. So the more time we have to plan the better as we get into this.”

The state says it must set aside half of its Moderna vaccine for the federal government, which is contracting with CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations at long-term living facilities.

Both Cooper and Cohen on Tuesday also repeated their urging of North Carolina residents to not travel during the holiday season as COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise across the state.

On Tuesday, hospitalizations rose by nearly 200 people, to 2,735. One month ago, 1,404 people were hospitalized for the coronavirus.

“I know we’re all getting so numb to these numbers, so I’m asking you to take a moment to think about who these people are,” Cohen said. “They’re our neighbors, our friends, our family members; they are people we love.”

The news conference came one week after Cooper issued an executive order implementing a 10 p.m. curfew in North Carolina that he has called a "modified stay-at-home order."

On Monday, Cooper, Cohen and NC Department of Safety Secretary Erik Hooks released a joint letter that was sent last week to local governments imploring them to enforce COVID-19 restrictions the state has in place.

"This pandemic is threatening to overwhelm the capacity of our hospitals and health care workers, and we all want people seeking medical care to have a hospital or ICU bed if they need it for COVID-19, a heart attack or any other ailment," the letter read.

Cohen did say, however, that the main concern is for a health care provider shortage — not a lack of beds or space.

"For us in North Carolina, it's not a physical space, but rather a limitation in the people — the doctors, the nurses, in particular — that are needed and that are really strained here," she said. "We have physical space. But what we really need to manage very carefully is the people and the staffing."

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