Chapel Hill, N.C. — Across central North Carolina, the professionals who speak for major hospital systems expressed frustration Monday at the allocation of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We did not get as many doses as we would like this week,” said Chris Tart, vice president of professional services at Cape Fer Valley Health. Tart said his organization requested 10,000 doses and got half that number.
Alan Wolf, spokesman for UNC Health, said, “UNC Health has received fewer COVID vaccines than expected for this week, resulting in fewer vaccination appointments scheduled.” Wolfe said UNC Health’s 10,000-dose allotment is “less than half” of the allocation that was anticipated.
In Orange County, the situation is even more dire. “Orange County, for the third week in a row, did not receive a shipment of first doses. We have exhausted our supply of first doses and will only be doing second doses this week,” spokesman Todd McGee said.
The Wake County Health Department got only 975 doses to deliver this week but requested between 3,000 and 4,000, spokeswoman Stacy Beard said.
So where is it all going? The state is recalibrating how it doles out doses in anticipation of mass vaccination events, but none of those are scheduled yet in the Triangle.
That’s something Durham resident Maggie Hite would love to see.
“I think a hospital can only do so much,” she said. “They have a finite amount of staff. I think the mass vaccination sites would be a good idea. We need the mass vaccination sites really bad, because there are so many of us waiting.”
Christian Cleavland, also of Durham, agreed.
“I think the biggest priority should just be getting the biggest number of shots in the most number of arms,” he said.
“This is truly an issue of supply and demand,” Dr. Ian Buchanan, UNC Health president of ambulatory and post-acute care. “We are very aware of the angst this is causing everyone who is eligible now to receive a vaccine and cannot get an appointment or who spends hours online trying to get one.”
According to Beard, the state of North Carolina tells counties at the end of each week how much vaccine they will get for the following week.
“We purposely do not schedule appointments until we know how much the state is going to send us,” she said.
“We do not want someone to come to Wake Public Health for an appointment, excited and ready that they can get this life-saving shot, and then they get here and we’re out,” she said.
“It’s a little frustrating for all the hospitals, all the partners for the state and CDC, in that it’s hard to plan week to week,” Tart, of Cape Fear Valley Health, said.
Durham County, Duke University Health System and UNC Health practice a similar process. All say they won’t have to cancel appointments scheduled for this week and only anticipate scheduling appointments about a week at a time, giving people only a few days to plan.
“UNC Health is not canceling or postponing any appointments,” Wolf said. “UNC Health schedules vaccination appointments each week based on the supply received.”
At Cape Fear Valley, Tart said they are scaling back how they operate vaccine clinics.
“We have taken a limited number of walk-ins each day at our sites, but will not be able to do that this week due to the decreased supply,” she said.
Each county in North Carolina is distributing vaccines differently, and state health officials said it is okay to cross county lines to get a vaccine. Senior citizens 65 and older and other eligible groups who still need a vaccine can call the state’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline at 1-877-490-6642 or visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/findyourspot.