The first large-scale COVID-19 vaccine clinics were held Wednesday across the region, with a wide range of experiences reported.
While Dare County had an appointment-only clinic at the Baum Center in Kill Devil Hills, the eight counties in the Albemarle Regional Health Services territory had drive-thru, first-come first-served where shots were delivered.
“I’m so incredibly proud and grateful of our team, and ask for continued patience from the public,” said Dare Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies.
“We will vaccinate as quickly as our allotment from the state allows,” Davies said. “We are anxiously awaiting our next shipment from the state.”
Additional clinics are scheduled for Monday at the Parks and Recreation Center in Kill Devil Hills and Saturday, January 16 at the Fessenden Center in Buxton.
To register for the clinics, call the Dare COVID-19 call center at 252-475-5008. The Call Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dare County is administering the Moderna vaccine, which requires a pair of doses separated by at least 28 days.
In Hyde County, coronavirus vaccinations are currently available at the health department in Swan Quarter and the Ocracoke Health Center.
To make a vaccine appointment at the Ocracoke Health Center call 252-928-1511. On the mainland, call 252-926-4399.
Mainland clinics see high demand, long waits
At the drive-thru clinic outside College of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City yesterday, some people waited as much as three hours along busy North Road Street to get the vaccine.
The clinics in Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Gates, Chowan and Hertford counties closed several hours early on Wednesday, after distributing all of the vaccines they had on-hand for the day.
This morning, residents who wanted to get their first doses of the vaccine had been lined-up in their vehicles at 7:30 a.m. at the Currituck County clinic in Maple that was not scheduled to open until 9 a.m.
By lunchtime, the day’s allocation of shots in Currituck had already been distributed.
The first doses right now are supposed to be only for healthcare workers caring for COVID-19 patients, along with nursing home residents and anyone else 75 and older.
But a number of local residents who are farther down the priority lists said they were able to get the vaccine.
“We are focusing our efforts on those that are (in priority group) 1a and those that are 75+,” said Albemarle Regional Health Services director R. Battle Betts, Jr. “We are making a good faith effort to honor those priority groups.”
“That being said, I do understand that some people may have come through that are outside of those parameters that had waited in line for several hours, and I made the decision to not turn those folks away that had made arrangements to be there and may not have fully understood the guidelines,” Betts said.
Other health departments around North Carolina reported similar experiences, with many turning out to get the shots even though they were not supposed to be in line yet.
“Health care providers have been working hard to ensure all vaccines are used and stored properly,” said N.C. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Catie Armstrong.
“In smaller communities, vaccination site leadership operating community-based vaccine clinics for current eligible populations will have to make on-the-spot decisions to meet the needs of each situation, taking into consideration vaccine storage needs, opened vials and vaccine doses,” Armstrong said.
Former Governor Jim Hunt, Mrs. Carolyn Hunt, Washington County Commissioner Julius Walker, Jr., and Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-23) were among North Carolina’s 75 and older population to receive the first of the two-part COVID-19 vaccine today at the Wilson County Health Department.
“Mrs. Hunt and I are thankful the COVID-19 vaccines are available,” said Former Governor Hunt. “We’re deeply grateful for the leadership of Governor Roy Cooper and his team, and encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Julius Walker, Jr., who serves as Washington County Commissioner and in several other roles in the community, says the COVID-19 vaccine is key to protecting yourself and loved ones.
“I’m active in my church and throughout the community, and I’m excited to educate my family friends and others about my experience getting vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Walker.
He hopes others will be inspired to do the same. “Get vaccinated; not only for yourself, but for others too.”