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UPDATE: Counties gear up to distribute vaccine

Updated: Dec. 15, 2020 at 8:50 PM EST
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BLADEN & BRUNSWICK COUNTIES, N.C. (WECT) - Following approval by the Center for Disease Control at the weekend, Bladen County Hospital is the first in WECT’s five-county viewing area to receive a shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday evening. Distribution details are not available at this time.

Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety quality and epidemiology officer, provided an update about the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday, December 15 during a virtual media briefing. The first doses of COVID-19 have begun arriving in North Carolina this week.

Novant Health anticipates receiving its first allocation of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, December 17 and has approval to distribute at three NC facilities, one of which is Brunswick Medical Center.

The initial allocation is for 6800 doses and Novant has freezer storage capacity for more than 500,000 doses. Novant will schedule vaccinations to get them to people as quickly as possible in four phases.

Phase one involves immunizing high-risk healthcare workers, first responders, congregate living facility workers, and residents and adults with more than two chronic medical conditions. Anybody essential to the vaccine response will also be vaccinated.

More clinic-based vaccine sites and mobile immunization sites will become available for phases two and three. As more vaccine becomes available in the coming weeks, the roll-out will continue to evolve for Phase four widespread immunization.

Priest said individuals who have already tested positive for COVID-19 should still be vaccinated because, at this time, medical experts do not know how long immunity will last; however, people who have known severe allergies, like those who carry epi pens, should consult with their physician before getting the vaccine.

For those hesitant about being vaccinated, Priest encouraged everyone to be wary of conspiracy theories and misinformation and to seek out reliable information about the COVID vaccine from the CDC website.

He said vaccine recipients will experience some expected effects like a sore arm, maybe some malaise and fatigue, and occasionally a low-grade fever for a couple of days because that is evidence of the immune system responding.

No long-term side effects are expected. “... think of mRNA as a very fragile instruction manual that your cells will use to make a protein that the COVID virus uses to enter into your cells. That protein causes your immune system to respond to protect you from COVID,” said Priest.

Priest addressed hospital capacity and said that currently, Novant has adequate resources; however, the community needs to help reverse the increase in positive cases because beds are also required by people with other seasonal illnesses.

“It’s really crucial we don’t let our guard down over the holidays,” he said. “... it’s why we continue to preach please, please social distancing, masking washing your hands.”

Moving forward, Novant Health is expected to hold twice-weekly virtual media briefings to provide updates on vaccine distribution.

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