RALEIGH, N.C. — For the first time since COVID-19 vaccines became available in December 2020, North Carolina this week declined to accept any more supplies.
Instead, this week’s requests from North Carolina providers are being fulfilled through transfers from other providers or through requests to local health departments, according to state health officials.
“We are currently focusing on prioritizing the in-state inventory of vaccine by using a first-in, first-out strategy so that providers use vaccines by date of expiration in chronological order, as well as transferring vaccine between providers who can use them,” the state Department of Health and Human Services said in an emailed statement on Friday.
Coronavirus vaccinations in NC
The move comes as North Carolina nears an announcement on additional financial incentives to boost vaccine participation amid a sizable drop in vaccine demand over the last two months.
“I’m not surprised by that decision,” said Dr. Andrew Blum, a clinical pharmacist at Eastern Carolina Medical Center. “Currently, at our pharmacy, the demand has gone down significantly.”
North Carolina returned more than 1.2 million doses to the federal government as of Friday. Nearly all states have contributed to the federal pool, according to the state Health Department.
Data the department released Friday shows a surplus of nearly 2.4 million COVID-19 vaccines waiting for residents to take. The state has also turned down nearly 2.4 million additional shots from its federal allocation.
Blum said demand for the vaccine is low in rural areas.
“We’re still seeing only like 10 to 30 patients come in a day to get their shots,” he explained, adding that the medical center currently has 6,000 shots to give out.
North Carolina on Friday crossed the threshold of most adult residents being fully vaccinated. Thirty-nine percent of the state’s overall population of 10.5 million people and 46% of eligible vaccine recipients 12 years of age or older are now fully vaccinated. Nearly four in five North Carolinians who are at least 65 years old have completed their vaccine cycle.
But the state’s administration numbers lag behind much of the country.
North Carolina is the 14th worst state in COVD-19 vaccine doses administered per capita, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state’s top public health official, told a news conference Wednesday that three groups remain unvaccinated: those who are eager to get vaccinated but haven’t found the time to do it, those who have unanswered questions but would be more receptive to a shot if it were accessible at their doctor’s office and those with no plans to get a vaccine.
“We’re just going to keep at this,” Cohen said.
Blum said that while everyone who wanted the shot has received it, but now, they’re starting to see people who have changed their minds and need it for things like surgery or have experienced the loss of a family member to the virus.
“Every single family member after the fact will come get their COVID shot because they feel so much regret for not doing it originally,” said Blum.
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Anderson is a corps member 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.
North Carolina accepts no new COVID-19 vaccines this week – WRAL.com