GUILFORD COUNTY — Elected leaders and public health officials in Guilford County are scrambling this weekend to secure enough COVID-19 vaccine for appointments at county clinics scheduled for Tuesday after a late-week change by the state in the allocation of doses.
Republican Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad of Greensboro said the bottleneck stems from the decision made Friday by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s office to direct 35,000 to 40,000 doses to a mass inoculation effort in Mecklenburg County. Conrad, who told The High Point Enterprise on Saturday that he was infuriated by the move, said it forced Greensboro-based Cone Health to reschedule vaccinations for 10,400 people.
Guilford County leaders are trying to assure that they have 400 doses needed to hold clinics on Tuesday at locations such as the former Oak Hollow Mall in High Point, said Democrat Skip Alston of Greensboro, chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. The county has adequate supply on hand for Monday appointments at clinics, he said.
Alston is working with Guilford County legislators of both political parties this weekend to secure 400 doses so Tuesday county vaccination clinics don’t have to be postponed.
“Our people with the county are on standby so that wherever we find 400 doses, we will go get them this weekend,” he said.
Alston said the county is supposed to get 5,000 additional doses later this week, which will alleviate some of the pressure.
A spokeswoman with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to The Enterprise that large-scale vaccinations are planned in Mecklenburg County at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Carolina Panthers stadium.
“For the coming vaccine week beginning Jan. 27, we only have a 120,000-dose allocation to administer,” said SarahLewis Peel, communications manager with the department out of Raleigh. “As a result, many providers are getting small allocations or zero allocations for the week of Jan. 27. We know this is causing pain among providers who did an incredible job working to vaccinate residents quickly.”
Alston told The Enterprise on Saturday he understands that the governor’s office and state public health officials face a tough task making decisions about the allocation of vaccines with the level of demand statewide outstripping supply. But Alston said that he and other county officials were upset about the short notice the state gave late last week in the reallocation.
“If the state is going to do a megasite like in Mecklenburg County, then they are going to have to put as much dosage in that site as possible,” Alston said. “I just don’t like being told at the last minute that that’s going to happen.”
If the governor’s office and state public health officials are going to continue with vaccination megasites, then Alston said Guilford County certainly should be in the rotation as the third-largest county in North Carolina.
Conrad said that he’s upset because state officials at the outset of the vaccine distribution said counties and health systems that efficiently and effectively provide vaccines — as Guilford County and Cone Health have done — would receive a steady and regular supply of doses. What happened Friday with the reallocation betrayed that commitment, Conrad said.
“It’s playing with people’s lives,” he said.
Peel said that state public health officials recognize the frustration.
“As long as we are getting such a small amount of vaccine as a state, there are going to be challenges and shortages as we try to ensure equitable access to vaccine while getting shots into arms quickly. We understand this is hard for providers who are doing everything right,” she said.
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