Has the COVID vaccine drive hit rock bottom?
RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) ― The COVID-19 vaccine push in North Carolina and across the country appears to have hit rock bottom.
And as rules for masks and other mitigation measures have been lifted, the vaccination effort has clearly hit a standstill.
“It’s true that we definitely have not seen as many people getting their first shots,” said Dr. Erica Pettigrew, a family practice physician and associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “And I don’t think any of us are surprised by that.”
In each of the past two weeks, the state set record lows for the total number of first and second doses given, according to numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The preliminary figures from NCDHHS show about 15,000 of them going out last week, worse than the previous low of about 18,500 that were given during the previous week.
Those totals don’t include booster doses, which on virtually every day since late November have accounted for the most total doses being given.
NCDHHS data show some counties where no one — not a single person — got a first dose in a particular week. For example, Tyrell County didn’t have any first doses listed during the week of Feb. 14.
For more than a month, the state’s rate of adults being vaccinated with at least one dose has been stuck at 75 percent.
And the push to unmask children in schools comes as only about a quarter of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 are partially vaccinated — by far the lowest rate among age groups tracked by NCDHHS.
“If you haven’t gotten your kid vaccinated yet, it’s time to revisit that decision,” Pettigrew said.
The drop in North Carolina’s numbers mirrors the one nationally, with the average number of Americans getting their first shot has plunged to about 90,000 a day. It’s the lowest that rate has been since early in the vaccine rollout in December 2020, when few shots were available and even fewer people qualified to get them.
The statewide percentage ticked up one point to 75 percent on Jan. 27 — and has not moved since.
Vaccination takes on even more importance now because so many cities, counties and employers have lifted their mask mandates to conform to guidance issued last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pettigrew said.
“There are only a few tools we have, really, in fighting this pandemic,” she said. “In public health, we don’t want to drop all the protections all at once.”
So, where do we go from here?
Pettigrew hopes the lifting of mask rules can actually push some holdouts to give in and get their shots — the triumph of the metaphorical carrot over the stick.
“I’m very hopeful that in the next few weeks and months, we’ll have more people getting their shot — especially parents choosing to get their kids vaccinated,” she said. “Because there is some data to show that when things like mask mandates are lifted in school districts, the vaccination rate can actually go up, which makes sense.”
Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.