North Carolina Faces COVID-19 Vaccine Delays Amid Poor Weather
RALEIGH — North Carolina vaccine providers have yet to receive nearly 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines the federal government was set to deliver this week, state health officials announced Thursday morning.
The Department of Health and Human Services is now asking clinics to plan to postpone appointments because of the delays fueled by severe winter weather.
None of the more than 163,000 first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine scheduled to arrive this week have been delivered by President Joe Biden's administration, the state health department said. The state also noted that less than one-third of the nearly 127,000 Pfizer vaccines expected this week have been shipped.
Of the 366 different vaccine providers listed on the state's weekly distribution list, just 18 currently have doses being shipped, according to data the health department provided to The Associated Press. The shipments are largely going to more heavily populated areas, such as Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
"Right now, we have a two day—two and a half day—delay," Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. "We'll see if that stretches out to make sure it informs what choices we have to make about guidance for providers."
North Carolina health officials are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce the consequences of the delay.
“As there is not enough vaccine in the state to shift or transfer supply in order to cover the delayed vaccine doses, DHHS is advising providers to assess current appointments and notify recipients accordingly based on on-hand supplies,” the department said in a statement.
The Mecklenburg County Health Department said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that it will "notify patients directly if their appointments are impacted" by the weather delays, adding that "new appointments are guaranteed and will be provided." The county health department canceled all first and second dose COVID-19 vaccination appointments scheduled for Thursday through its partnership with StarMed because of forecasted inclement weather.
David Wohl, an infectious disease expert at UNC Health who oversees two vaccination sites in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough, said both clinics were closed Thursday and that everyone affected is being contacted and rescheduled.
Several other states have also reported delays due to the inclement weather across much of the country.
North Carolina was on track to receive more than 290,000 total first and second doses of vaccine this week, with about 56% coming from Moderna. Because of the way the doses are packaged and stored, people in rural communities are often likelier to get Moderna shots.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news conference that the delays would not affect plans to begin vaccinating K-12 teachers and school staff next Wednesday.
“Obviously, I and governors in a lot of other states are very frustrated about the weather delays for the vaccines that are coming into our state,” Cooper said. “I don't think the delays will be so much that it would affect anything in our stages.”
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Anderson is a corps members for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.