New Hanover County sees hiccup in vaccine rollout as some non-1A workers get shots over weekend, communication issues blamed

Confusion leads to ineligible healthcare workers getting vaccine in NHC
Updated: Dec. 31, 2020 at 4:21 PM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Vaccine distribution continues based on the state’s phased plan, with limits on who can get it because of the short supply — but an unknown number of people who do not fall into the state’s definition of Phase 1A for the coronavirus vaccine received a shot in New Hanover County late last week.

A county spokesperson said the issue arose due to an internal memo about the vaccine distribution that didn’t delineate the two stages of North Carolina’s first phase of vaccines, as well as word of mouth about the shots.

“No communication was sent or shared with the community giving directive,” the spokesperson said, “But, word-of-mouth is strong in our community and people sharing experiences and information around registration led others to seek vaccines.”

The county couldn’t say how many “currently ineligible” vaccines were given, but stressed they still have plenty of supply to vaccinate the remainder of their 1A candidates.

Regardless of if they were too early, those who have received their vaccine will get the required second dose in four weeks, as called for by the manufacturer.

North Carolina remains in Phase 1A, where the focus is on front-line healthcare workers and those in long term care facilities, and will likely be in that phase until mid January.

The state announced changes to the distribution plan Wednesday, which makes more individuals eligible sooner.

New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner said despite the hiccup, the vaccine process so far has been going well, with much of the staff working through the holiday weekend to keep getting doses out.

“That’s the level of commitment that we have here in Hanover County Public Health,” Turner said. “We had several folks here working Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. And so because we did that it helped us push that initial opportunity out faster than potentially some of the surrounding areas.”

Turner said enthusiasm for the vaccine has been high, which she has been glad to see.

“I’m very pleased, pleasantly surprised, and pleased at the amount of folks who were coming in for their vaccinations,” she said. “I think that’s encouraging as well. I think people are like, ‘You know what, it’s here. It’s one more way to protect ourselves and people we love,’ so people are taking advantage of it.”

The continued rollout is happening, though, at the same time the county is seeing its most dire numbers since the pandemic began.

“Our numbers of positives are climbing faster than they’ve ever climbed since Thanksgiving. So we’re dealing with that trying to continue with contact tracing out and case investigation,” she said.

She added that while the vaccine is a bright spot, and they are working as fast as possible to get it to people as the state allows, the community needs to focus on slowing the spread in the meantime.

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