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'We are barrelling down that highway' | Mecklenburg County aiming to increase vaccination rate as cases surge

Out of 1.1 million residents of Mecklenburg County, 48% are fully vaccinated.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County is continuing its fight against COVID-19 with vaccinations and information. 

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris told county leaders that vaccinations have gone up over the past couple of weeks, but are still nowhere where the vaccination rate needs to be.

Harris said concerns over the delta COVID-19 variant are leading more people to go get vaccinated. Within the past two weeks, more than 9,500 people in Mecklenburg County were fully vaccinated.

Out of 1.1 million residents of the county, 48% are fully vaccinated, health leaders said. Harris said hospitalizations are rising, with hospitals in the area reporting that 99% of local people being treated for COVID-19 in the hospital are not vaccinated.

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It's a concern as the race is on to get more people vaccinated before a strain pops up that's immune to the vaccine.

"If we stay on track like this it is going to be a red-hot-minute and we're going to be at the top level of where we were at our very worst last winter," Mecklenburg County Commissioner Leigh Altman said. "We are barrelling down that highway."

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Some promising news, though -- Harris said vaccination rates for Hispanics in Mecklenburg County are up with 44% of that community vaccinated. The Black community is still lagging behind in vaccination rate; one county commissioner said she'd like to see vaccinations offered in barbershops or beauty shops to try to get shots out.

One big incentive for anyone considering getting their first dose: Mecklenburg County is among several North Carolina counties offering $100 "Summer Cards" at some vaccination sites for anyone 18 or older getting their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Contact Hunter Sáenz at hsaenz@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

FULL LIST: North Carolina offering $100 COVID-19 vaccine incentive

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