Fri Oct 22, 2021

Why is Columbus County lagging in vaccines? [free read]


Among neighboring counties in the state, Columbus has the smallest percentage of its residents vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. 

Approximately 1,549 county residents — nearly 3% of the population — have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 180 their second dose, according to Jan. 20 data from NCDHHS. There is a data lag, however, of around three days. 

On Jan. 21, NCDHHS stated that Columbus County had received 2,100 doses, meaning that the county has administered 74% of its doses.

In the surrounding area, 6.8% of Bladen County residents have been vaccinated, Robeson County, 4.4%; and Brunswick County, 4.6%. 

“There is an all out push to give everything we have,” said Kim Smith, director of the Columbus County Health Department. “We’re not letting anything gather any moss anywhere.”

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Spokesperson Daniel Buck said the department is “administering everything we’ve received.”

“I don’t know how we could be any faster if we’re offering everything we have.”

Smith attributed Bladen’s higher percentage of vaccinations to that county’s ability to hold the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage. “The Pfizer vaccine can only be distributed in lots of 975 [doses]; they do not break up a set,” she said. “In Moderna, they ship it out in 100.”

The Columbus County Health Department has only received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, but has a plan in place to secure dry ice if the state decides to send Pfizer to the county, according to Smith. 

Buck added that the health department administered almost 100 vaccines on Thursday and over 200 on Friday. “We’ll have almost no vaccines left at the end of the day,” Buck said on Friday. 

“I have requested more from the state,” Smith added. “I’ve not been successful.” 

The health department will reopen to appointment scheduling on Feb. 1 for people aged 75 and up. Buck stated that the health department was planning to open vaccine administration to people 65 and older, not just 75 and older, before the end of February. “We didn’t want to immediately move down [the prioritization system] and miss a lot of people,” he said. 

Smith added that anyone 65 and older could get their COVID-19 vaccine out of the county, as it is federally funded and distributed. “Wherever you go to get your first vaccine, you’ve got to get your second dose there,” she said.

As of Friday, the state had vaccinated about 8% of its population, according to Gov. Roy Cooper. 

Columbus Regional Healthcare System has made vaccines available for eligible patients at Southeast Primary Care.

“We are starting with current patients due to the limited vaccine allocation from the state,” spokesperson Stephanie Miller said earlier this month. “We have requested to increase this allocation, and, as more vaccines become available to us, we’d love to open it up to the public.”

CRHS leaders participated in an interview about vaccines Tuesday afternoon with The News Reporter. A follow up story will be posted Wednesday at and published in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.

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