RALEIGH, N.C. (WAVY/WNCN) — Several North Carolina hospitals and health departments received fewer or no first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the state this week, forcing them to cancel scheduled vaccination appointments.
Two groups that advocate for hospitals and health departments criticized the state’s decision to reallocate vaccines to mass clinics, saying doses should be distributed equitably.
“We’re pushing the governor and the secretary, let’s do better,” said North Carolina Healthcare Association President Steve Lawler.
The NCHA, which advocates for hospitals and healthcare systems sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper outlining seven issues to be “addressed immediately” to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“The responsibility to successfully vaccinate the state’s residents has largely fallen to our state’s hospitals without a clear and consistent plan from the state or the necessary resources for success,” the letter reads.
NCHA says while the federal allocation of vaccine for North Carolina has remained consistent, hospital systems have seen vastly different allocations from the state each week.
On Monday, the Dare County Department of Health and Human Services (DCDHHS) announced that some appointments for an upcoming COVID-19 vaccination clinic may be canceled.
DCDHHS says its allotment this week was cut in half. As a result, about 300 appointments scheduled for Friday, Jan. 29 may have to be rescheduled.
The Outer Banks Hospital and Onslow Memorial Hospital transferred some of their vaccines to the Dare County health department, which prevents them from having to reschedule all 1,100 appointments scheduled for Friday.
If you among the patients with an appointment that needs to be rescheduled, the health department said you will receive a phone call to reschedule by the end of the day Thursday.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dare County said it was still working to secure more doses so hopefully they won’t have to cancel any appointments. If they are able to get more doses, the call to patients will be to confirm their appointment Friday. If they can’t get more, the department hopes those appointments will be rescheduled for next week.
“There are no words adequate to describe the frustration and dismay felt by myself and our team over having to cancel vaccination appointments for Friday’s clinic due to no fault of our own. The people in Dare County and rural North Carolina deserve equitable vaccine allocation from the state,” said Dr. Sheila Davies, director of the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services. “We have been modelling the way for how to safely and efficiently administer large numbers of vaccines and have repeatedly communicated to the state that we could vaccinate 2,000 – 4,000 people per week if those vaccines would be allocated to us.”
This week, Cone Hospital in Greensboro was forced to cancel 10,400 appointments after the state unexpectedly said it will not supply first-dose vaccines to them.
UNC Health said it received less than half the allocated doses that were expected. However, they will not have to cancel any appointments.
Lawler says NCHA wants allocation to be based per capita.
“We have some of the finest health systems in the country that are prepared and ready, what we’re asking for is consistent equitable distribution,” he said.
He says while mass vaccine clinics like the one at Charlotte Motor Speedway are useful, the vaccine used there shouldn’t come from doses allocated for hospitals.
“We should be asking the federal government for additional vaccine to support those so what we’re not doing is moving need vaccination from hospitals and health systems that are ready to go and have made appointments and made promises,” he said.
The NCHA letter to Cooper also asked the state to address issues with the CVMS system, and not transition to the next eligibility group until a clear plan is developed.
Another letter sent to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen by the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors also expressed concern over the current vaccine distribution plan.
According to the letter, NCDHHS directed allocations to be reduced or eliminated in many counties, after health departments worked to increase capacity.
“This decision has left many communities without much needed vaccine to use for already scheduled events and appointments to serve our elderly and those at direct risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their health care work,” NCHA wrote.
NCAH also called on NCDHHS to distribute doses equitably, rather than divert vaccine to “mega sites.”
“NCDHHS decided to move vaccine AWAY from local communities where, in many cases, travel to a large mega site is prohibitive to access for many North Carolinians creating inequitable distribution of this limited resource,” the letter reads.
The letter goes on to say “because doses were diverted, grandmothers and grandfathers who had appointments in rural NC now wait. Health care workers who had appointments where they serve patients now wait.”