RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. — There’s hope on the horizon about the progress for COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina.
North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced on Thursday the state is expected to administer its first doses of the vaccine in just two weeks. She also walked through the state’s plan for distribution, including which groups will get top priority.
The latest developments about COVID-19 vaccines are raising questions for some people who are the most vulnerable to the virus. Wanda Newby contacted WCNC Charlotte to ask when the vaccine would be available for her mother who receives palliative hospice care, specialized medical care at home with a visiting nurse.
“We don't go anywhere,” said Newby. “She has no immunity, none whatsoever.”
Newby also wanted to know if the vaccine is safe for her mother.
“How are these seniors able to handle it?” asked Newby. “The strongest thing I can give her for pain is Tylenol. Anything other than that she's out for three days.”
The questions come as the WCNC Charlotte Defenders team learns the timeline for the first shipments, starting with about 85,000 Pfizer vaccines, which are expected the week of Dec. 14.
Then the following week, state health officials anticipate Moderna vaccines to arrive; from then on, there are expected to be weekly shipments from both drugmakers.
“The initial supply of vaccines will go to a limited number of hospitals,” said Health Secretary Cohen.
Healthcare workers at high risk of COVID-19 and people working in long-term care facilities are at the top of the state’s priority list for vaccines.
“Where does momma fall in getting the shots?” asked Newby.
“We hope by early 2021 people with chronic conditions begin getting vaccinations,” said Health Secretary Cohen.
“Those same nurses and CNA's that go into assist at those nursing homes also visit homes like ours,” said Newby.
For the vaccine to be considered fully effective, a second dose is needed, which state health officials say is built into the plan.
“If we get an allocation of doses today, in two weeks those second doses to match that group that came today will be shipped to us,” said Amanda Fuller Moore, Pharmacist with North Carolina Health and Human Services Department.
“I'm just going to have to play it by ear,” said Newby.
WCNC Charlotte asked NCDHHS about Newby’s question regarding the availability and safety of the vaccine for her mother.
NCDHHS responded with the following statement:
“Once a vaccine is authorized for use, supplies will be very limited at first. Independent federal and state groups of experts determined that the best way to fight COVID-19 is to start first with vaccinations for those most at risk. Therefore, the initial supply of vaccines will go to a limited number of hospitals to vaccinate health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 – those who are caring for or cleaning areas used by patients with COVID-19. Because of the limited initial vaccine supply, not all hospitals will receive vaccine initially. As more vaccine becomes available, it will be distributed to more of the state’s hospitals and to our local health departments to focus on vaccinating high risk health care workers. Long-term care staff and residents (for example, nursing homes) will also be in the first group to receive the vaccine. Following these groups will be adults with two more chronic conditions that the CDC has defined as putting them at high risk for serious illness. If the FDA grants Emergency Use Authorization, a CDC committee will review the data and recommendations based on which populations should receive the vaccine.”