CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra made a stop in Charlotte Wednesday to visit a pop-up vaccine clinic at Uptown's Transit Center to promote and encourage vaccinations.
Cooper and Becerra were joined by Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary of North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris and other city leaders. The purpose of Cooper's visit was to boost confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines as concerns grow over the rapidly spreading delta variant.
North Carolina and the U.S. as a whole have hit a lull in vaccinations while delta spreads quickly.
Cooper said the state's vaccination rate is lower than they'd like it to be. Leaders from the federal government down to the local level have the same plan to continue doing what they believe works, having one-on-one conversations with people and bringing vaccines to them. In Mecklenburg County, public health workers will be going door-to-door and offering vaccines on the spot to those who want the shot.
“We're laser-focused on getting as many people vaccinated as possible because that we know is the one fix for all of this,” Cooper said.
Harris said 55 people were vaccinated in the first three hours of the pop-up clinic. She said it was a good turnout considering the decreasing demand in the county. Anyone who got vaccinated or dropped someone off got a $25 cash card and a free bus pass.
Cooper said he was concerned about the delta variant and that there has been a slight increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state. He believes delta is to blame.
What is more concerning to federal health officials is delta’s ability to continue to mutate and possibly to the point where the vaccines do not protect against it. He said the federal government is relying on the facts to convince more people to make the choice to get vaccinated.
“Of the Americans who are still dying today in America, 99% of them are unvaccinated. Get vaccinated. We want you to live, we want you to prosper but more than that we want you to be able to hug your child again and to be safe around your grandparents,” Becerra said.
The delta variant is a real threat to people who aren't vaccinated, and the longer they put it off, the more opportunity the virus has to mutate again and again.
“We have to stay ahead of this because what we don’t want is for all that good work, the masking, the social distancing, and especially the vaccinations to be for not because we let this thing evolve to a point where it out does any kind of vaccine that's out there,” Becerra said.
Demand has plateaued but health leaders say they will keep going, sticking to the strategies they say work to continue to try and move the needle.
“It’s going to happen visit by visit, call by call, person by person, shot by shot. Everyone is important," Cooper said.
Cooper said they’re still seeing a lot of hesitancy in Black and Latino communities, as well as white, rural parts of the state. Research shows that people want to hear from those they trust, family members, and friends who have already been vaccinated.
“I think this is what it's going to take. Each of us who have been vaccinated talking to each other,” Cohen said. “Why did we get vaccinated, talking about our experience, I think that’s what will actually help us move the needle. So, we need to talk about this vaccine is safe, it’s effective and it’s free and it’s accessible."
Earlier on Wednesday, the state chose winners for the second of 4 cash drawings to try and boost vaccination rates. Cooper said they hope to announce the winners in the next few days and that all incentive options that could help to get more people to get the shots are on the table.
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