Currituck 5th lowest, Dare 2nd highest in N.C. for COVID vaccinations after data update

Dare County Board of Commissioners Chair Bob Woodard receives a COVID-19 vaccine in March. [Courtesy Dare County]

The state has updated its COVID-19 vaccination record keeping methods, which now show slightly lower numbers than previously reported in some counties and higher numbers in others.

Despite the change, Dare County still has the second highest fully-vaccinated rate in North Carolina, and Hyde County is fifth. But Currituck County ranks fifth-lowest in the state for percentage of both partial and fully-vaccinated residents.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Friday that county vaccination data from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Indian Health Services and Federal Bureau of Prisons had been updated to reflect the county of residence for the person vaccinated.

That resulted in the vaccination rate changing for several counties on the North Carolina COVID-19 Dashboard.

NCDHHS said that during their regular reviews of data quality, they found a vaccination report from the CDC was based on county of administration:

“All other vaccine data is by county of residence. North Carolina was the first state to raise the issue to the CDC as most other states are not providing this level of data on their public dashboards. The CDC has now provided the correct report, and NCDHHS has updated the public dashboard accordingly.

Throughout the pandemic, NCDHHS has worked to improve data accuracy and transparency in its reporting. The information on the data dashboard is used to promote equity, track progress and guide decision-making. Having the most accurate information available is important so local and state leaders have the data needed to inform decision-making.”

As of Friday, 66 percent of all Dare County residents are fully vaccinated and 70 percent are at least partially vaccinated. Only Orange County had a higher percentage in North Carolina.

Dare County Health and Human Services Director Dr. Sheila Davies said she continues to be pleased with their vaccination rate:

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against serious illness or death from COVID-19 infections. In addition to the health department, area pharmacies (Sunshine Family Pharmacy, Bear Drugs, Island Pharmacy, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart) have been working really hard to ensure vaccines are readily available, at no cost, for all eligible individuals who want to get vaccinated.”

Hyde County at 65 percent fully and 60 percent partially only trails Orange, Dare, Durham, and Wake.

Director of Hyde County’s health department Luana C. Gibbs said it is “extremely satisfying” to be ranked in the state’s top five:

“I can assure you, we have held steadfast in our vaccination campaigns and though it was rather “hairy” at first, we quickly got into a routine that worked well for our agency.

The vaccine planner, who is our preparedness coordinator, took the lead in planning our vaccine clinics and did a wonderful job in her planning efforts. She still runs the vaccine campaigns and clinics.

Initially, we held vaccine clinics daily, at the Health Department while following the CDC guidance on eligibility criteria. Then, we were able to move out into the community, hitting the underserved populations and elderly, even going to their homes. It helps that we are small, and basically know our communities so well.

I can say in the beginning, we had to borrow staff from the EMS Department to give our shots because our staffing was so limited. We even used nurses from a pool within the state, too. But from the onset, we used the digital CVMS vaccine provider portal to eliminate paper entries. This prevented double work.

Thankfully, all of the staff at Hyde County Health Department pulled together as a team and simply worked to get the job done. I am so proud of the employees here. I can truly say that by thinking ahead, planning appropriately, and working hard and smart, we have been pleased with the outcomes.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Currituck has just 37 percent of its residents that are fully vaccinated to rank only ahead of Harnett, Gates, Robeson and Hoke. 41 percent of Currituck’s population is at least partially vaccinated.

Amy Underhill, Albemarle Regional Health Services Healthy Communities Coordinator and Public Health Education Supervisor, said with som many residents of Currituck and Gates seeking medical care in Virginia due to its proximity, that may have some effect on vaccine reporting:

“ARHS continues to work within each of (our) counties to provide access to vaccine appointments through our local health departments. We anticipate the federal vaccine mandate will likely increase vaccinations rate throughout the region. There is plenty of vaccine for all who need it. ARHS is also continuing to work with our local partners to host vaccine clinics within the community and provide key educational messages through news media and other outlets that focus on accurate information about the vaccine.”

“There could be some reporting issues for vaccines received out of North Carolina but the state has been working really hard on trying to get that information,” Davies noted.

A pair of clinics are scheduled this week for those who received the Pfizer vaccine in the ARHS territory.

“Pfizer booster doses are now available for certain groups of individuals to help extend the protection of the vaccine against severe illness,” said R. Battle Betts, Jr., ARHS Health Director. “If you are eligible to receive a booster dose of Pfizer, please do so.”

Information on who is currently eligible for booster doses can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/booster-shot.html.

The booster dose clinics will be held Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Elizabeth City Aviation Commerce Park, and Thursday at Currituck Community Park adjacent to the YMCA in Maple from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Sam Walker is news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 WCMS and Z 92.3. Reach him at swalker3@jammediallc.com