CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Novant Health is preparing to open a mass vaccination site on the east side of Charlotte that will have the capacity to serve as many as 5,000 patients a day.
The clinic, which will open at a not-yet-announced site on East Independence Boulevard, is part of the mission to “reach all of our communities where they are,” Nikki Nissen, senior director and chief nursing officer for Novant Health, said.
Final preparations are underway but Nissen believes the mass vaccination clinic could be open as soon as Monday, Feb. 22.
Supply will determine how many patients they are able to inoculate every day, Nissen said.
The clinic will be accessible via public transportation and located in a part of Charlotte that is often underserved.
Since the start of the pandemic, Novant Health has been on a “constant pursuit” of health equity, Nissen said.
With that pursuit in mind, leaders within the health care system have been working to identify and secure a site in an otherwise underserved part of Charlotte.
Nissen said, that the search has not been easy.
“I can’t even tell you how many locations we have looked at,” she said. “We have really struggled through all of COVID to find real estate in the charlotte market that meets the need for the community that is on a public transportation site that is in the right zip code to meet patients where they are.”
Nissen said there was pushback and hesitance from the local business community that hampered their ability to secure a site sooner.
“A lot of times, when you’re approaching a business with the words ‘COVID’, ‘vaccination’ or ‘testing’, there’s not a lot of interest in surrounding businesses having us there,” Nissen said. “We’ve had challenges at the majority of our location with our neighbors not being thrilled with us perhaps bringing sick patients into the parking lots.”
It’s a challenge health leaders knew they had to overcome.
“We’re committed to ensuring that eligible individuals have access to the vaccine without creating barriers that would disproportionate impact our marginalized communities,” Dr. Jerome Williams, senior vice president of consumer engagement for Novant Health, said.
Underserved communities, and communities of color, are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Studies have shown that minorities and underserved communities have been less likely to receive vaccines in North Carolina.
The state is setting aside thousands of vaccines to go to counties with higher low-income and historically marginalized populations.
Nissen remained hopeful vaccine allocations will increase in the coming weeks that will allow the site to expand to reach its 5,000-person-a-day capacity. But until supply increases, the site will be restricted to appointments only.
Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.