Guilford County, Greensboro leaders address vaccine shortages: ‘We need our fair share’

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Guilford County and Greensboro leaders said Monday that health officials need more access to the COVID-19 vaccine to keep up with demand.

“Guilford County, we are having to rearrange our schedule for scheduled appointments for this week, we were about 385 short, we will get another 500 we’re thinking this coming Thursday to try and make up for that,” Board of Commissioners Chair Skip Alston said.

Cone Health was forced to cancel more than 10,000 appointments late last week after learning from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services they would not receive additional doses for the week.

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state is relying on the federal government for more doses to keep up with demand.

Alston said if given the supplies, Guilford County could ramp up its efforts and create a mega site at the Greensboro Coliseum.

“If we were tasked with the responsibility of doing 50,000 a week, we could do that, even more. Again, money is not a factor, a facility is not a factor, we could also do drive-thru vaccination,” he said. “We’re the center of the state, we could serve people coming from 50-100 miles away.”

Alston said local officials are working with state and federal partners to secure a steady supply of the vaccine. He didn’t know Monday if the state would allocate additional doses to make up for canceled appointments.

“No promises have been made as of yet, as of right now we only know that we are getting 500 this week, we hope to know that we are getting a lot more the following week, so we can plan accordingly,” he said.

On Monday the North Carolina Healthcare Association called for changes to the vaccine distribution process in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper.

The letter pointed out issues with the COVID Vaccine Management System (CVMS), calling it “burdensome and ineffective.”

Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann said there are conversations underway with DHHS to improve the system.

“Having conversations around how that platform can be optimized so everybody can have a very clear understanding of how many doses we have in hand, how many doses are being allocated for appointments in the very, very near future, to the next couple of days, for example, and also are those doses first doses or booster doses and not combine them, in order to determine the amount of vaccine that we have on the shelves,” she said.

She said at this point, she is not worried about allotments for second doses.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have received the second dose allocation for all of the doses that we have received in the past. So, we are expecting to see something along those same lines going forward,” Vann said. “Right now we don’t have any concerns about that.”

The letter also says hospitals had to pivot on short notice without consultation from the state. The association stated the vaccine plan should be based per capita and on regional differences.

Anyone with a canceled appointment will get priority for a rescheduled vaccine appointment.

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