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

Mecklenburg County On COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: It’s Going To Take A While

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Updated 5:25 p.m.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris said it’s going to take a while to vaccinate residents for the coronavirus who are 75 and older. The county started this week registering these residents for a COVID-19 vaccination at Bojangles Coliseum.

The county is home to more than 20,000 residents 75 and up, and about 2,000 vaccines a week are arriving in Mecklenburg County, said Harris.

A large number of people trying to make an appointment through a hotline set up by the county has delayed sign-ups. Harris says the county is working on opening up more lines.

“We know that when you open something up to 20,000 people in the community and many of them call at one time, that things can potentially go wrong,” Harris said. “So we have had challenges with some people not able to get through, and we apologize for that.”

Vaccinations at Bojangles Coliseum are by appointment only. Appointments through mid-January filled up in half an hour, and by Tuesday evening, all slots through the end of the month had been filled.

"As vaccine supply increases, we will add additional appointments and notify residents when they become available. The appointment scheduling process will be the same," the county said in a statement.

In the meantime, those ages 75+ are encouraged to reach out to their primary care providers (if they have one) to discuss options for receiving the vaccine.

There are between 325 and 350 appointments a day scheduled, said county medical director Dr. Meg Sullivan.

North Carolina has been rolling out the vaccine in phases. The first phase, Phase 1a, included health care workers directly treating COVID-19 patients and long-term care residents and staff.

The second phase, 1b, includes residents 75 and older, along with health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 and older. Those frontline workers include first responders, teachers and grocery store workers. The next group to receive the vaccine will be health care workers and frontline essential workers of all ages.

The county is working on a plan to screen those health care and frontline essential workers seeking a vaccine, Harris said. One way would be to require some kind of work identification, she said.

“To be perfectly honest, we can’t spend a lot of time screening people when we look at the number of people we’re talking about trying to get vaccinated,” Harris said. “So we will depend to some extent on people’s honesty.”

Harris said the county is turning to EMTs and paramedics, volunteers with medical backgrounds and testing partners to help county staff administer the vaccine.

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Updated: January 5, 2021 at 5:28 PM EST
This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. to reflect that all vaccination reservation slots through the end of January have been filled.