'We're worried': Cape Fear Valley officials worry about drop in vaccine interest as thousands of doses are still available

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- This is Cape Fear Valley Health's first Monday where appointments for a COVID-19 vaccine didn't fly off the shelf, leaving them with more than 2,300 openings for first dose appointments.

Mask-wearing could prevent up to 14,000 COVID-19 deaths by August, model predicts

"I think what we're worried about is the vaccine supply is outpacing demand," said Vice President of Professional Services at CFVH Christ Tart.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, around 13.8 percent of Cumberland County residents have been fully vaccinated, with an additional 16.9 percent being partially vaccinated.

How to speak to someone who's hesitant to get COVID vaccine

This number is still a far cry from what Tart and other health system officials want to see, eyeing the 70 percent mark for effective herd immunity.

That statistic, along with the vaccine doses being available to those 16 and older, should still equate to high demand; however, CFVH is finding itself with an excess of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson doses.

Are some COVID-19 vaccines more effective than others?

Tart said misinformation on social media and fear of long-term effects continue to be the driving force behind the recent hesitancy.

"The weather is warmer, people are out and about more. A lot of people are thinking the pandemic is kind of behind us, but it's still very much in front of us. We still need folks to get in line, roll their sleeves up and get the vaccine," Tart said.

Health officials fear this standstill will lead to future surges and less of a chance of seeing some normalcy in the coming months.

Tart reiterates that the vaccines are completely safe and will not have long-lasting effects but acknowledges he can't say the same about what COVID-19 can do to a person's body long term.

"What we don't know is what the virus might do to you if you get infected," Tart said. "What long-term effects? There might be a new disease in the next few years named after COVID-19; cardiovascular diseases, different lung diseases that might be named after COVID-19. We don't know what those long-term impacts are."

As far as the excess of doses, CFVH health officials say they will hold onto those doses until they expire. They've also worked alongside other hospital systems that may need some more supply, most recently providing doses to Duke Health.

For those who may be waiting for a chance at the Johnson & Johnson at CFVH, Tart added that it is "sporadic, so we can't plan it week to week, like we can with Modern and Pfizer," pleading with people not to wait for their preferred dose.

According to CFVH, there will be walk-in vaccine clinics on Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cape Fear Valley Rehabilitation Center Auditorium at Owen Drive. Right now, they have a total of 2,400 doses available for this week.

Duke Health also said it had available appointments.

Carteret County announced on Monday that it was ending its vaccine clinic due to "a decrease in the number of appointments being scheduled."
Copyright © 2021 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.