COVID-19 Vaccine Demand For Highest Priority Group Outstrips Supply, NC Health Secretary Says

COVID-19 Vaccine Demand For Highest Priority Group Outstrips Supply, NC Health Secretary Says

10:48am Feb 09, 2021
Secretary of the N.C. Department Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen speaks Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 in Pittsboro, N.C. while Gov. Roy Cooper listens at right during a tour of Piedmont Health Senior Care, a federally qualified health center where PACE patients (Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) and underserved populations can receive the COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says demand for the COVID-19 vaccine for people age 65 and over remains high, and it’s too early to move on to the next group of priority recipients.

That older age group accounts for more than 80 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 in North Carolina, she says.

Cohen adds the state could be doing more vaccinations, but the supply from the federal government remains limited.

“Our vaccine providers are able to administer way more vaccines than we have,” Cohen says. “They are probably able to administer three times as many vaccines as what we get from the federal government. So our limitation at this point is not on the operations. It's really just on the supply of vaccine.”

The current priority is getting people 65 and older and health care workers vaccinated. She says we’re likely weeks away from moving onto the next group, which includes essential frontline workers.

Cohen made her remarks during WFDD’s virtual community conversation on vaccines.

The rush to start COVID-19 vaccinations left some often-underserved populations behind in the early stages of roll-out, says Dr. Michelle Laws. She leads the NCDHHS COVID-19 response team for historically marginalized populations.

Laws says the state faced a difficult balance between quick action for those most in need and equity for minority and immigrant populations who have less access to health care.

“Our goal was to get people vaccinated, and to make sure that we were hopefully hitting those populations as we were focused on the speed factor,” says Laws, who was also on the panel for the community conversation.

Laws says the pandemic has shined a light on discrepancies in the public health and rural health systems.

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