'Super Concerning': Charlotte Area Sees Slowdown In People Seeking COVID-19 Vaccines
Some Charlotte-area health care providers are seeing a decline in demand for COVID-19 vaccines. Mecklenburg County Public Health and Novant Health both said they have seen fewer people seeking shots.
Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease physician with Novant Health, called the trend “super concerning.”
“We don’t want to plateau at 35, 40%, 45% of individuals being vaccinated when we need 65, 70, 75% to really get the pandemic to close,” Priest told reporters Tuesday morning.
In Mecklenburg County, about 27% of residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services. That lags behind the statewide vaccination rate of roughly 30%. Gaston (where 24% of people have received at least one shot), Iredell (24.3%), Union (24.7%) and Cabarrus (23.3%) counties also trail the state average.
Meanwhile, in Wake County, a significantly higher percentage — 36.2% — of residents have received at least one dose.
“Supply is currently outpacing demand,” Mecklenburg County spokesperson Rebecca Carter said in an email. She said the number of available vaccine doses and the number of clinics have “increased substantially.” A spokesperson for Charlotte’s other large hospital system, Atrium Health, did not immediately answer an emailed question on Tuesday about whether Atrium has also seen a decline in people seeking vaccinations.
“Part of it is people who have been anxious to be vaccinated have done so,” Priest said, adding that those left may be hesitant about the shot or struggling to find a convenient time and place to get vaccinated. All North Carolina adults 16 and older became eligible for the vaccine on April 7.
Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County’s public health director, told WSOC in March that the county got off to a slow start for being one of the first to host mass vaccination events. She said the mass vaccination events attracted people living in all parts of the state and that when someone receives a shot, they are counted in their home county’s figures, not the county where they received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Harris also told the TV station that the state initially prioritized central North Carolina for COVID-19 vaccine allocation but had since revised the allocation to focus on counties with low vaccination rates.
Both the county and Novant Health have started taking walk-up appointments at most of their vaccination sites. Mecklenburg County Deputy Health Director Raynard Washingtontold WFAE the county hopes the walk-ups will boost the number of Black and Latino residents getting vaccinated.
The decrease in demand for vaccines comes as some COVID-19 metrics are on the rise in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina. On Friday, the county reported an average of 269 cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus for the previous week — 30 cases more than the 14-day average. Statewide, 1,170 people were hospitalized with the virus on Monday, according to health department numbers, and the test positivity rate was 7.4% on Monday. State health officials have said the target test positivity rate is 5%.
“It’s not surprising as areas open up that we have some degree of viral spread,” Priest said. “We’re able to handle that volume in the hospitals. But we don’t want people to have to be hospitalized when you have a highly effective vaccine literally across the street from the hospital that could have prevented it.”
Younger people account for many of Novant’s positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, according to Priest. He said younger people are less likely to be vaccinated because North Carolina’s vaccination effort initially prioritized the more vulnerable older population.