Is there a lag in COVID-19 vaccinations in NC? NCDHHS' Dr. Mandy Cohen explains

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reported that North Carolina is among the seven states with the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the country, with less than 1 percent of the population being vaccinated so far.

And Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that he was deploying the National Guard to assist in speeding up the process.

Q&A with a North Carolina doctor: When will the general public be able to get the vaccine?
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Right now, the state is in Phase 1a. North Carolina's vaccination plan says that the state can move into Phase 2 when more vaccine is available.


So, is the state lagging behind?

ABC11 talked with NCDHHS Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen to get some answers.

Dejuan Hoggard breaks down his one-on-one with Dr. Cohen


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Dr. Mandy Cohen explains where the state is at in its COVID-19 vaccination plan.



She said that one of the issues is simply with the amount of vaccine that the state has received from the federal government.

"We have about 300,000 doses here in North Carolina right now and that's a small portion of a 10 million-plus state so we know that vaccine supply is overall going to be pretty limited," she said.

That's just enough for people in Phase 1a -- which includes --health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents -- to get their vaccines.

However, she says, more vaccines are promised to be delivered each week.

Another challenge has been on the logistical front.

Dr. Cohen pointed out that the same people trying to administer and distribute the vaccines are the same people who have been batting COVID-19 on the frontlines for months.

"So we want to give everyone a little grace as they work to improve their operations," she said.

When can you get the COVID-19 vaccine? Find out where you are in line

She noted that there were staffing challenges over the holidays for some local health departments and hospitals, which could also cause a delay.

"Because we didn't get that much heads up on how much vaccine was coming, how much is coming every week, it does make it hard for our local partners to plan," she said. "So I do want to say that certainty around what we're going to get from the federal government helps us plan into the future and get our operations up and running faster. So that has been a struggle."

As North Carolina prepares to move into Phase 1b in some counties, several healthcare workers in Phase 1a still have yet to be vaccinated.

"The federal government updated their (Phase 1b) guidance to us on Dec. 22, which was kind of late in the game, but we appreciate that it took some time for them to figure that out," Cohen said.

Also this weekend, updates are coming to the state's software system for managing who has already received a vaccine and who is in queue to get inoculated. Further updates include streamlining the process to allow for scheduling, thus improving efficiency in likely human error.

When pressed when the general public can expect further guidance on getting vaccinated, Dr. Cohen answered: "Right now it's limited supply. So you're not going to see a commercial from us at this point because things are still so limited. But we will ramp up that communication effort and more vaccine becomes available."

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Mandy Cohen in the media player above.



ABC11 spoke to Orlando Reyes, head of environmental services for UNC REX hospital, who is expected to get his second dose Thursday.

UNC Rex has done first doses for 3,400 frontline workers.

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UNC REX ramps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 2nd doses



"We are as essential as the nurses or the doctors because we are there to clean and sanitize the room to make sure the patient feels safe about their environment," said Reyes. "I'm doing it not only to protect myself and my family but also to lead by example and motivate our community to say that this is safe."
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