Gov. Roy Cooper and Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen outlined the state’s plan to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once it is authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“Having a safe vaccine within reach is an extraordinary achievement,” Cohen said.
“At the same time, it is not a quick fix. It will take several months to have enough supplies that anyone can readily get a vaccine. Until most people are vaccinated, those three Ws remain our best tool to protect our loved ones, to make sure our hospitals are there for those who need them, and to save lives.”
Highlights of the plan include:
- Initially, a very limited supply will go to a limited number of hospital settings to vaccinate health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 – those who are caring for or cleaning areas used by patients with COVID-19.
- As more vaccine becomes available, it will distributed to more of the state’s hospitals and to local health departments to focus on vaccinating high-risk health care workers. Additionally, long-term care staff and residents are prioritized to receive vaccine.
- Vaccinations at nursing homes, adult care homes and other long-term care settings are being managed by the federal government. The vaccines used in long-term care, however, will come from the state’s allotment.
- By January, state health officials hope that health departments and community health centers will start vaccinating other adults who are at high risk for complications, meaning they have two or more chronic conditions, and who are at higher risk for exposure.
- The vaccine will be free to everyone. Any fees associated with the administration of the vaccine will be paid either by insurance companies or by the government.
Cohen said that the vaccine plan outlines the critical steps needed to administer a COVID-19 vaccination program – everything from enrolling providers to give vaccines, to ensuring vaccines are distributed equitably and providers can properly store and handle them, to developing an IT system to manage vaccine supplies and ensure that people get both doses, to training providers on how to use that system, to having a process to monitor adverse reactions.
More than 367,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in North Carolina since March, and more than 5,200 people in the state have died.
“Within the next few weeks, there will likely be at least one approved vaccine,” Cooper said. “And with hope so close on the horizon, we have to keep using the tools we know slow the spread of this virus to help save lives during the next few months. Don’t give up now when help is on the way.”
Those tools, Cooper said: Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands often.
“Don’t give up now,” he continued. “We need to work together and stay vigilant. If we do, I know we will get through this.”