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March 6, 2021

Darts and Laurels: New vaccine site will boost community capacity

Laurel to the news that Novant Health has set up a vaccine clinic at the J.F. Hurley Family YMCA.

Its creation is because the clinic will add to permanent the capacity for Rowan County (the community at large not government) to provide COVID-19 vaccines for those who plan on taken them. The clinic, which serves Novant Health patients and is appointment-only, started administering vaccines last week and has already administered hundreds of shots.

At its peak, Novant Health officials say, the clinic can administer 1,000 shots per day. And in a YMCA gym, there’s plenty of space to expand.

At the Rowan County Health Department’s drive-thru clinic, officials estimated they could administer 200 vaccines per hour — roughly 1,600 in an eight-hour day.

Together, both options could provide a maximum capacity of 13,000 vaccines per week — enough to provide one dose to all of the county’s population in less than three months. That does not subtract veterans who live in Rowan County and receive vaccines through the Salisbury VA.

The issue, of course, is supply. The Novant clinic was operating with just 50 vaccines on Wednesday and the Health Department had 300. The Salisbury VA receives its doses separately from the health department or Novant, and it has been steadily working to reach the tens of thousands of veterans it serves across the region.

Still, it’s important Rowan County residents have reliable, consistent ways to be vaccinated. If manufacturers can produce enough doses and the various layers of government equitably distribute vaccines, Rowan County will be ready.

If the state continues as is, dart to the curious call to allocate large portions of the state’s vaccine supply to mass vaccination events and leave health departments wondering why they didn’t receive more doses.

Yes, the most significant problem with COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a lack of supply, but the state cannot ignore the inequities caused by focusing on massive drive-thru events instead of providing certainty to local health departments or health care providers.

Examples of the massive events include the Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Atrium Health said it planned to vaccinate roughly 16,000 people last weekend. News outlets report a site this weekend at Bank of America Stadium hopes to vaccine between 20,000 and 30,000 people with their first dose.

People who are able and willing to travel to be vaccinated will do so, whether it’s an hour or a mile away. But there are people currently eligible for vaccines who are not able to drive to and from a massive vaccination site, with some waiting time between their arrival and departure.

Whether or not a majority of people 65 and older can drive to a vaccine site isn’t the point. A person’s ability to receive a vaccine shouldn’t hinge on whether they have the resources to travel to a mass vaccination site in Charlotte.

Explaining allocation choices, Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said Tuesday the mass vaccination events were pre-planned weeks ago, most doses for the next few weeks will be allocated based on population and another portion will go toward balancing out inquiries.

Now more than ever, action is worth more than promises.

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