Wake County receiving some of the smallest amounts of COVID-19 vaccine per capita

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- While North Carolina officials aim to distribute their limited COVID-19 doses equitably between counties, the ABC11 I-Team uncovered various disparities in the data.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows that Wake County, one of the largest counties in the state, received some of the fewest doses per capita.

The county has received 7.5 doses per every 100 residents, an average that places the county three doses below the state's average (10.6).

"It's difficult and disappointing to look at those numbers, especially when we know the demand in Wake County is so high," said Stacy Beard, a spokesperson for Wake County.

The Wake County Health Department has approximately 80,000 people on its waitlist.

Other counties that report a similar allotment average to Wake County have around 16 times fewer residents.



"With a population with of over 1.1 million, it paints a different picture of are we really getting enough vaccinations out to enough percentage of our population," Beard said. "We've definitely been following the numbers and talking with the state about wanting to get the number of doses per capita up in Wake County."

Mecklenburg County, with a similar population to Wake County, ranks 60th in the state with 2.5 more doses than Wake County per every 100 people.

Secretary Mandy Cohen explained earlier this week that the state allocates its supply based mostly on county population.

"The baseline is strictly distributed based on county population that ensures that all 100 counties are getting vaccine proportionate to the folks who are in their county," Cohen said during a news conference Wednesday. "So, yes, our rural communities that do serve less folks do get less but we are using population to again make sure that we are getting to everywhere."

READ MORE: Out-of-staters, looking for the shot, fuel 'vaccine tourism' in NC

However, the ABC11 I-Team uncovered 75% of the state's least populated counties are at or above the state average for vaccine per capita. The data shows Hyde County with fewer than 5,000 residents received three times more vaccine doses per capita than Wake County.

On the other hand, only 30% of the largest counties in the state met or exceeded the state average for vaccine per capita.

ORANGE COUNTY A DIFFERENT STORY



Durham and Orange counties both rank among the top 10 counties in the state for the number of doses per capita.

The latest data shows Orange County received 21 doses per every 100 residents, a rate three times higher than Wake County.

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Orange County spokesperson Todd McGee said he was surprised to learn how high the county ranks.

"Whatever we get in from the state, we are getting out within a week, so it's not an issue of capacity. We can do a lot more vaccines that we are getting from the state, it's just an issue of the state does not have enough to go around," McGee said.

Despite the high ranking, the Orange County Health Department has close to 18,000 people on the wait list and receives only around 600 doses a week.

A majority of the 31,000 doses the county received has gone to UNC, which McGee explained does serve other counties.

So, people from Chatham County and Alamance County and Moore County, and Randolph County and Person County and other counties are also coming into UNC Health to get treated on a normal basis so they're probably looking at it as a regional type of entity and they're putting out a lot of vaccine," McGee said.

CHANGES IN ALLOTMENT STRATEGY NEEDED?



NCDHHS said that about 25% of its vaccine allotments is distributed to counties with higher numbers of low-income adults 65 and older and historically marginalized populations 65 and older.

RELATED: It's OK to seek a COVID-19 vaccine in another county, NCDHHS Secretary says

"NCDHHS' goal is to vaccinate as many people as quickly and equitably as possible while supply of vaccine remains very limited. It is the Department's expectation that all doses be distributed based on our state's equity principles," an NCDHHS spokesperson wrote in an email.

With only 11% of its population 65 years and older, Wake County has one of the smallest percent of the state seniors.

"We do have a young population in Wake County. It's a place where people are coming to start careers so that may skew some of our population statistics," Beard said.

Beard said NCDHHS is beginning to recognize the need to consider allotments per capita. Next week Wake County is expected to receive 20,000 doses marking the third week the county will receive the highest number of vaccine.

"Priority one is vaccinating this community and we're all doing it night and day and weekends and trying to get it to people as quick as we can," Beard said.
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