Dare County will release on Monday details about how people age 75 or older will be vaccinated locally for COVID-19, according to a bulletin posted yesterday on the Dare County Dept. of Health and Human Services’ website that referred to the “how, when, where” of vaccine registration.
The DCDHHS “is still wrapping up the vaccinations for [people in] Priority Phase 1A,” yesterday’s bulletin stated, and expects “to move immediately” into vaccinations for the next prioritization phase, which includes the age 75-and-over population.
At last Wednesday’s COVID-19 update briefing in Raleigh, however, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services, said that she did not expect most local health departments to start administering vaccines to this age group until the week of Jan. 11.
North Carolina has both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which are administered in two doses weeks apart.
According to the bulletin, the DCDHHS anticipates finishing its Prioritization Phase 1A vaccinations on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
Priority Phase 1A includes healthcare workers who are at a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
The vaccinations of the latter are being administered by CVS and Walgreens through a partnership with the U.S. Government. These facilities include skilled nursing facilities, such as nursing homes, as well as adult, family, and group homes.
(The Beacon has previously referred to the prioritization phases as groups, a term the DCDHHS also has used. We will henceforth call them phases.)
As The Beacon reported Thursday, the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services dramatically changed the prioritization order of vaccine recipients on Wednesday when it updated its guidelines to conform with recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (“ACIP”). (See The Beacon, 12/31/20, slightly revised 1/1/21.)
Previously, the NCDHHS had not assigned any prioritization to potential vaccine recipients on the basis of advanced age alone. Instead it emphasized recipients’ living situations and health status. The revised prioritization phases reflect a reordering of recipients’ “place in line” according to age.
Because of a limited supply of vaccine delivered to North Carolina, “each group [in a phase] will be taken one at a time,” Dr. Cohen said at the briefing. The phases and the groups within them are as follows:
Phase 1A: Healthcare workers who are at high risk for COVID-19 exposure or who are “vital to the initial vaccine response”; and long-term care facility staff and residents.
*First Group: Anyone 75 years old or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
*Second Group: Healthcare workers not vaccinated with Group 1A and frontline essential workers who are 50 or older.
Frontline essential workers include first responders, such as firefighters and police officers; corrections officers; food and agricultural workers; U.S. Postal Service workers; manufacturing, grocery store, and public transit workers; and educational and child-care workers, including teachers, support staff, and day care workers.
*Third Group: Healthcare workers not vaccinated with Group 1A and frontline essential workers of any age.
*First Group: Anyone 65 to 75 years old, regardless of health status or living situation.
*Second Group: Anyone 16 to 64 years old, regardless of living situation, who has one or more “high-risk” medical conditions that the CDC has said increase the risk of severe disease from COVID-19.
The CDC lists the following such conditions: cancer; chronic kidney disease; COPD; Down Syndrome; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; immunocompromised state from a solid organ transplant; obesity (a BMI of 30 to 40) and severe obesity (a BMI greater than 40); pregnancy; sickle cell disease; smoking; and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The CDC also lists conditions that “might” subject an individual to an increased risk for severe illness from SARS-CoV-2. Asthma, hypertension, type 1 diabetes, and dementia are among the conditions in this categorization.
*Third Group: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in another close congregate setting who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition, or job function.
*Fourth Group: Essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated.
*College and university students.
*K-12 students age 16 or older. The vaccines have not been approved for younger children yet.
Phase 4: Anyone else desirous of vaccination.
See NCDHHS vaccine plan at NC DHHS COVID-19: Vaccines
See also Dare County vaccinations at COVID-19 Vaccine | Dare County, NC (darenc.com)
N.C. Senate leader Philip E. Berger reportedly has issued a statement objecting to the decision by Dr. Cohen and Governor Cooper to prioritize for vaccination healthy college students ahead of people in their early 60s.
Because college students are perceived as spreaders of the virus, however, Governor Cooper is so far standing by the plan.
VACCINE DISTRIBUTION: A COMPLEX PROCESS
Both the Governor and Dr. Cohen expressed concern at Wednesday’s briefing, in response to reporters’ questions, about violations of the prioritizations.
They said they are investigating enforcement measures that they would be authorized to invoke to prevent healthcare providers from “jumping the line” for their patients.
Their efforts could involve asking the N.C. Medical Board to propose punishments for physicians’ noncompliance, such as fines and medical license revocations.
Both officials also expressed sensitivity to the possibility of healthcare providers selling vaccinations for profit. Both COVID-19 vaccines are available free.
According to The Washington Post’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, North Carolina had administered at least 73,423 doses of vaccine as of late afternoon Thursday. We can find no more up-to-date figure. The NCDHHS does not post online the number of the vaccine doses received by the State or the number administered statewide.
North Carolina was to be initially allocated 583,850 doses, and Dr. Cohen declined Wednesday to be specific about how many doses it has received. These are first doses only.
The NCDHHS Secretary estimated that the State is now receiving about 60,000 doses of each vaccine per week. But only the Pfizer vaccine was available in the first week, which was the week of Dec. 14, and the Secretary has consistently said that the dose allocations per week have been lower than anticipated.
Dare County “is receiving very limited allocations of the vaccine each week,” according to yesterday’s DCDHHS bulletin.
Dr. Cohen also said Wednesday that there are about 2 million people in North Carolina who are age 75 or older, and that it will “take some time for us to get vaccine to everyone.”
The Governor stressed that the vaccination process, which includes handling the special vaccine packaging, preparing the vaccine for administration, and training people to administer vaccinations, is “complex” and people need to “be patient” as the “logistics on the ground” are established.
We would advise you to expect delay.
LATEST COVID-19 CASE NUMBERS
The NCDHHS dashboard reported today 9,365 new COVID-19 cases, covering the past two days, with a positivity rate of 15.5 percent; 3,479 current hospitalizations; and 6,892 deaths, 144 more deaths than were reported on Thursday.
Dare County set a new record-high single-day COVID-19 case total yesterday of 52. Thirty-seven of the new cases are Dare County residents, including a man age 65 or older who was hospitalized, and 15 are nonresidents.
People in the 25-to-49 age group continue to dominate the COVID-19-positive test result numbers locally, closely followed by people in the 50-to-64 age group. The age breakdown of yesterday’s reported 52 cases was: four, age 17 or younger; five, ages 18-24; 21, ages 25-49; 15, ages 50-64; and seven, age 65 or older.
In its last COVID-19 update, which was issued on Tuesday, Dec. 29, the DCDHHS reported a weekly positivity rate of 13.8 percent.
“The vast majority of new cases of COVID-19 in Dare County,” the update said, continue to be “linked to direct contact between close friends, co-workers, and families.”
TOWN COUNCIL MEETING ON TUESDAY
We will preview the Southern Shores Town Council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting in our next blog post. The Council will meet in the Pitts Center at 5:30 p.m.
Most significant on the agenda is a presentation by Dare County Manager/Attorney Bobby Outten regarding the funding the County will be giving Southern Shores for its 2022 beach nourishment project.
You may access the agenda and meeting packet here: https://www.southernshores-nc.gov/wp-content/uploads/minutes-agendas-newsletters/Meeting-Packet_2021-01-05.pdf.
Ann G. Sjoerdsma, 1/2/21