Rocky Mount, N.C. — The effort to vaccinate senior citizens against coronavirus continues to have a rocky rollout in North Carolina.
On Thursday, vehicles lined up for miles for a drive-thru vaccination clinic the Nash County Health Department held outside Nash Central High School in Rocky Mount.
People started lining up at 6 a.m. for the 1 p.m. clinic, which was geared toward vaccinating people ages 75 or older.
“Nobody wants to catch it. That’s why I’ve been out here since 6:30 this morning waiting to get the vaccine,” Pat Mauldin said.
“It’s important because we, like millions of others I’m sure, have been home since March,” said Marie Mullins, a retired teacher.
“People will be able to get back to work and live a normal life,” Mullins said, choking back tears. “Much more important than travel or even family … people can get back to work and have a life again and food in their children’s lunches and children back in school – and that’s what’s important.”
said, choking back tears. “[It’s] more important for people to be able to get back to work and lead a normal life.”
James Ervin, 79, said he brought snacks, drinks and his newspaper to keep him occupied while he waited.
“From what I’m seeing and the traffic lined up, I may get turned away today. I hope not,” Ervin said. “I’m concerned about others getting theirs also, of course.”
The health department had only 1,000 vaccine doses available to distribute on a first-come, first-served basis.
Health Director Bill Hill said his staff did their best to tell people right away when the line got too long so people wouldn’t waste their time.
“It’s bad enough to wait three hours and get a shot, but it’s worse to wait three hours and not have one available,” Hill said. “It is difficult to turn folks away, but even [Wednesday], we were talking about a make-up clinic for this one.”
Similar lines were seen Wednesday when other counties started moving into Phase 1B of the national vaccine distribution plan. Long lines formed at community centers, hospitals and vaccine clinics in Cumberland, Halifax and Wayne counties, among others.
Health care workers dealing with COVID-19 patients and residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were in Phase 1A, which started last month. Some counties, including much of the Triangle, remain in that phase as they try to inoculate their large numbers of health care workers.
The first group in Phase 1B is people ages 75 or older.
On Wednesday, a vaccine clinic at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville closed 30 minutes after it opened when the crowd quickly outnumbered the 250 available vaccine doses. In Goldsboro, senior citizens waited in line for hours just for the chance to sign up for one of 550 COVID-19 vaccines available this week.
A vaccine clinic opened Thursday for a second day at Halifax Community College. Staff there said they expected a smaller turnout than on Wednesday, when lines wrapped around the parking lot as people waited outside for hours.
Although thousands of eligible North Carolinians are seeking vaccine shots, counties have a very limited supply and are urging residents to be patient. State health officials have assured North Carolinians that anyone who wants to be vaccinated will get their chance, but distribution will take time.
Nursing homes still need vaccines
Even as much of the state moves forward with Phase 1B, it’s estimated that coronavirus vaccines have reached only a quarter of the nursing homes and long-term care facilities in North Carolina.
As part of an effort to vaccinate long-term care staff and residents who fall under Phase 1A, Walgreens and CVS staff members have been visiting facilities to administer vaccines as part of a federal contract.
Adam Sholar, president and chief executive of the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association, said he hopes to see vaccines reach all facilities by the end of the month.
“Some clinics seemed to be a little more organized than others, but from what we’re hearing, I think, at this point, we can say that was week one of what is really an unprecedented rollout and something that we’re keeping our eyes on,” he said.
Sholar said that, while the vast majority of nursing home residents have welcomed the vaccine, long-term care workers have been less willing. He said he hopes that attitude changes as clinics continue in the coming weeks.
Desperate Nash seniors wait hours for vaccinations – WRAL.com