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Health department hopes for increased vaccine allotment as NC expands eligibility

North Carolinians ages 65 and older are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, according to the state’s modified vaccination plan Gov. Roy Cooper revealed Thursday.

Unless the Beaufort County Health Department’s vaccine allotment increases soon, residents who just became eligible will still need to wait for their chance to schedule an appointment with the health department. The department anticipates that scheduling will resume Jan. 25.

“They’ve increased the amount of people able to get (the vaccine), yet the amount of doses we receive remains the same,” said JaNell Octigan, a human services coordinator and preparedness coordinator with the health department.  “They go week by week, so right now I can’t tell you what we’ll get next week.

“As soon as we have the ability, if they give us more vaccine, the moment they do we’re going to open up more appointments.  We want to make sure that we are vaccinating whoever wants it as quickly as possible.”

The health department receives its vaccines from Moderna.

Beaufort County follows the state’s vaccination plan. The original plan included four priority phases. Before Cooper’s announcement, the health department was vaccinating everyone in the first subgroup of Phase 1 — everyone ages 75 and older.

The new five-step plan is similar to the original.  Health care workers and long-term-care facility residents and staff members are covered in Group 1. Anyone ages 65 and older is eligible to be vaccinated in Group 2, regardless of their health status or living situation. Frontline essential workers such as first responders, educators, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing plant workers, postal service employees, public transit workers and grocery store employees are covered in Group 3. Group 4 includes adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness — such as those with comorbidities like cancer or heart conditions. Everyone else who wants a vaccine will be eligible in Group 5.

The health department already had filled all of its January vaccine appointments with those who were eligible in the 75-and-older group.

The health department administers vaccine on an appointment-only basis at various drive-thru clinics. Octigan said 100 appointments had been scheduled for Thursday’s clinic at Southside High School.

“So far we haven’t had one day that we’ve wasted any doses,” Octigan said. “Every day we’ve had 100 doses to give, and we’ve given 100.”

Octigan added that the county plans to follow the state’s new plan when its vaccine allotment increases and the health department staff starts scheduling more appointments. The department is still honoring all appointments that were scheduled before Cooper’s announcement.

“The big thing is the limitations with the vaccine,” Beaufort County Health Director Jim Madson said.

The department is running appointment-only, drive-thru vaccination clinics four hours a day, four days a week throughout January.

NOTIFICATION SERVICE

The health department is encouraging residents to sign up for Hyper-Reach, an emergency notification service that the health department uses to send updates about vaccination opportunities.

The registration form for Hyper-Reach can be accessed HERE.

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