WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New Hanover County providers are announcing changes to where they will offer COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.
Independence Mall is the county health department’s newest vaccination center, taking the place of its senior resource center (SRC) site. Just a few miles away, hospital staff are wrapping up their final week giving shots at The Pointe movie theater as the site prepares to show movies again at the end of the month.
The front lines of the pandemic are now moving from the front row of the movie theater to storefronts of the local mall.
The county health department is working now to get the mall site up and running, sorting through the legal paperwork and getting things like tables and signs ready to be placed when the site opens April 13.
Leaders have been planning the move for some time now and knocked out all of their second doses already at the senior resource center, so when the SRC reopens to help the county’s seniors again on Monday, public health patients won’t be showing up looking for their second shot.
“Folks over at the SRC were so great in working with us for so many months — for three or four months now. But it’s time to let them have their space back so we can move over to the mall, so just great community partnerships. We’re very blessed,” said New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner.
The mall site will be a standing vaccination site once it begins, meaning health officials won’t have to set up and break it down or move their equipment each day.
Leaders say the clinic will be located on the Belk wing and is a good place to operate because of the mall’s central location, parking availability and its proximity to public transportation. The site is also large enough that they can bring in patients in one entrance and organize it so they exit from a separate door, keeping people distanced.
People wanting to get a shot can sign up for COVID-19 updates here and will receive an email when new appointments are available and the call center is open for scheduling.
New Hanover County Public Health vaccination locations will not be able to serve any resident that does not currently have an appointment, and walk-ups will not be seen at this time.
The Pointe plans to return to showing movies on April 23, and the hospital has been doing a lot of planning over the past few weeks to make sure the transition goes smoothly.
Their goal now is to pivot more to using the surgical pavilion on 17th Street and their physician group clinics to deliver vaccines.
Like the county’s plan, NHRMC stopped giving first doses at The Pointe a few weeks ago. This week staff will be wrapping up the rest of the second dose appointments so no one will accidentally show up to the movie theater for their second shot.
Over the last few months, The Pointe site really made an impact on the community, and the people that had a hand in getting it up and running say it’s exciting to see the theater showing movies again but still a little bittersweet to see it close down as a vaccination site.
“The good news is we’re pulling out of there because our lives are getting a little bit closer to normal,” said NHRMC system director of pharmacy Mike Melroy. “We had a need and they were able to help us out and I think it’s been a win-win for all of us and really, I think it’s been a win for a community. It’s enabled tens of thousands of people to get vaccinated a lot quicker than they would have been if The Pointe would’ve never accepted our phone call or let us walk through the lobby that day in December.”
To see if vaccine appointments are available, visit: http://www.nhrmc.org/coronavirus
You can also register for an appointment when slots are open by calling (910) 662-2020 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Spanish-speaking callers can get translation services by calling the phone number.
If appointments fill up, you can sign up for NHRMC’s email list to find out when the next batch of COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available. To sign up for the emails, click here.