CHARLOTTE, N.C. — State and local health officials are ready to scale up vaccination efforts as soon as more vaccine arrives in the state. At this point, 1.4 million doses have been administered in North Carolina.
With each COVID-19 vaccine comes a shot of relief.
“I feel good. I haven't been to a store since March, so I’m just glad to get the half of it,” Margaret Calbwell said after her first dose.
And while the saying goes, "slow and steady wins the race", some say not in the race to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It's not only frustrating but it's frightening," Karen Chapman Steele said. "You go to sleep at night hoping you don't wake up coughing, hoping that you don't wake up not being able to breathe.”
She has been trying to get an appointment but hasn't had any luck yet.
This weekend, Novant Health will vaccinate about 2,000 people at the Spectrum Center. The health system is doing what they can with what they get from the state and looking forward to the day when the supply is no longer an issue.
“We're eager for the day when we can fully leverage our vaccination sites," Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said. "We certainly can vaccinate more community members. We'd love to get to that 20 thousand a day mark but until then we do believe every dose matters."
Novant Health's goal for this weekend is to continue getting into underserved communities and vaccinate any school employees 65 and older before they have to return to the classroom. For now, they are working with community partners to reach people in underserved communities and CMS to give appointments to school employees 65 and older.
Depending on how many they fill, they will then reach out to Novant Health patients to fill the remaining appointments.
“I would love to have 20,000 walking through there on a Saturday and we think we're working towards that as the allotment increases,” Dr. Priest said.
The federal government has promised North Carolina will get another 5% increase in its supply. And later this week, Gov. Roy Cooper said he will give a timeline of when the state will move into group 3, frontline essential workers.
“We are about 50% into our 65 and older group of folks so we are making a lot of progress but that still means as the Governor keeps saying, we know there are thousands of people 65 and up who are waiting for the vaccine,” Secretary Mandy Cohen said.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Cohen acknowledged both Novant and Atrium Health for doing good work to get vaccines into underserved communities. They continue to make that a top priority.
“We expect that the percentage of vaccine administered to historically marginalized populations in that county meet or exceed that county’s population estimates,” Cohen said.
And until vaccine supply grows, smaller events help to chip away at the goal of vaccinating as many people as possible.
“Small events are a really important piece of our vaccination efforts in communities. These small events are in locations our community members trust, places they frequent, places they want to be,” Priest said.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway will open back up again this weekend to give out second doses to the thousands of people who drove through 3 weeks ago.
For people who are eligible right now but still struggling to get an appointment, health officials recommend getting an appointment whenever possible, even if it feels far out, they have been moving people up as they get more supply.