Breaking News
More () »

‘They're not full’ | Supply outpacing demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Mecklenburg County

The Mecklenburg County Health Director talked to WCNC Charlotte about vaccine supplies, breakthrough cases and the possibility of COVID-19 booster shots.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than 6.2 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in North Carolina. In Mecklenburg County, 18% of the population is fully vaccinated and Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris told WCNC Charlotte that more than 30% is partially vaccinated.

"We need to get that number a lot higher so we want to make sure everyone 16 years or older are getting vaccinated,"  Medical Director at Mecklenburg County Public Health, Meg Sullivan said.

"I just hope everyone can get it and wants to get it," Liz Roberts, who got her shot at Camp North End, said. 

Harris also said the days of high demand for the shots are done and supply is now outpacing demand.

On Saturday, a mass vaccination clinic was held at Camp North End.

"We were looking for a place that we know brings the community out and has this positive energy," Sullivan said.

Unlike what would've happened a month or so ago, appointments didn't go in a matter of minutes and weren't all filled. The county is seeing a larger no-show rate and Director Harris said moving forward, there will probably be fewer larger events.

“As we move forward, those are probably not the best way for us to get vaccine out. We are looking towards smaller events in the community that spread out, so people have quick and easy access to it. More and more opportunity for walk-ins,” Harris said.

"We still need to have people feel that urgency and understand that the virus is still in our community, people are still dying," Sullivan said. 

The county is also focusing on building the capacity in the places people are more familiar with getting vaccines like pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

RELATED: Novant Health adds 3rd COVID-19 vaccination clinic in north Charlotte

There’s been less urgency for people to go out and get the shot so they are changing their tactics.

“We’ve had appointments for Camp North End, they're not full. So, we've opened up to walk-ins. Letting people know if you want to come by on Saturday, please do. We'll be happy to see you and take care of you,” Harris said.

Even with the use of the Johnson & Johnson shot paused, next week, the county will get the largest allocation of Pfizer and Moderna shots they've ever had. Using those requires more resources because they'll have to go back and re-vaccinate people three or four weeks later.

Another big part of keeping demand up and overcoming hesitancy is the marketing campaigns. The county is using well known, trusted people or influencers to get out information about the safety and efficacy of the shots.

RELATED: 'It's maddening because no one understands' | COVID-19 long-haulers experience distorted sense of smell

Another motivator, signs that the shots are working. But they aren’t perfect. People can still get COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

In Mecklenburg County, the number of people who have had a “breakthrough” case is extremely low, even less than .01%.

Data shows the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are almost as effective as promised in the real world, but they've never been perfect.

“They still have become infected and can still infect others so we need people to continue to wear their masks and we're sort of assessing these situations to understand how they got exposed,” Harris said. She said part of that work includes figuring out which variant is causing these breakthrough cases.

The longer it takes to get the most people possible vaccinated, the more time there is for it to mutate. That's like the flu, so looking to the future, that will probably mean booster shots.

RELATED: VERIFY: Were COVID-19 vaccines originally developed for SARS, MERS?

“What we know right now is we have at least six months coverage. Many vaccines provide longer coverage than that, even the flu vaccine does,” Harris said. “I would anticipate at some point we will be looking at boosters and would not be surprised some years we have a flu shot and COVID shot together that we need to take."

The next challenge becomes making sure people go back for the boosters. Vaccination rates are moving in the right direction but faster is always better in terms of tamping down the amount of virus in the community.

“I anticipate COVID is around for a while. We're not going to completely eradicate this virus I don’t think. Especially as long as there's enough of it in our community that it has the ability to mutate,” Harris said. 

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.

Before You Leave, Check This Out