HENDERSON — Following an adjustment of the state’s vaccination plan, the Tri-County’s two hospital systems say they’ve moved to add anyone who’s age 65 and above to the list of older adults eligible to receive COVID-19 immunizations at their clinics.
Granville Health System officials said that provided they first get an appointment, people 65 and up would be able to participate in a pair of drive-in clinics scheduled this weekend. However, late Thursday afternoon, they announced that all currently available appointment time slots have been filled.
They advised people wanting the vaccine to “check back regularly for further opportunities.” Granville Health has been taking appointments by phone at 919-691-5198 or electronically at www.ghsHospital.org.
GHS officials said they will continue offering COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the remainder of January from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Oxford hospital’s clinic is at 110 Professional Park Drive, on the Granville Health main campus.
In Henderson, officials at Maria Parham Health likewise said they will open appointments to anyone age 65 and older, but the hospital’s web page and Maria Parham’s social media indicated that the currently available slots are full.
They are looking at “how we partner with other community entities to get vaccine in the arms of the public as soon as possible,” Maria Parham CEO Bert Beard said. “That is a primary focus, concurrent with managing the patient care demands of the current surge. More information will be forthcoming on our community collaboration.”
Granville-Vance Public Health, which operates clinics of its own in both Oxford and Henderson, also said Thursday that the available appointment slots are full.
But, “We anticipate having appointments available again beginning on Friday, Jan. 15,” health department officials said via a Facebook posting. “We are receiving a high volume of calls and we appreciate your patience as we work through each phase of vaccinations.”
The health department’s COVID-19 vaccine hotline is 252-295-1503.
Before Thursday, officials had opened the vaccination program to anyone age 75 and above, regardless of health status. The move to broaden eligibility to anyone age 65 and up followed a N.C. Department of Health and Human Services decision to rework the state’s guidelines to match up with the latest advice from the federal government.
The revised program is now in Phase 2, with health care workers with “in-person patient contact,” the staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and anyone age 65 and up all being eligible to receive vaccinations now.
The as-yet-unopened third phase will include “frontline essential workers” who “in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19. The fourth phase will cover anyone between ages 16 and 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, prison inmates and other people in “close group-living settings” not already vaccinated, and other essential workers not already vaccinated.
The Associated Press reported that the change answered growing concerns that the previous DHHS — which include sub-phases within each step along the way to broader eligibility — was too complicated, slowed down vaccine distribution and administration, and didn’t give enough consideration to older adults who are more at risk from a serious case of the coronavirus.
“We are trying for simplicity and to really focus on the additional guidance we got from the federal government just a couple of days ago,” DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a Thursday news conference. “We are prioritizing those who are at highest risk of severe illness, those who are at highest risk from an exposure perspective and really try to get some simplicity there.”
As of Wednesday, 238,344 people in North Carolina — a figure nearly equivalent to the population of Winston-Salem — had received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. There are two variants, from the Moderna and Pfizer pharmaceutical companies, and each requires two doses for maximum effect.
DHHS said that statewide, 44,721 people — the equivalent of Vance County’s population — have received the second dose.
Locally, 930 people in Vance County have received a first dose, with 53 of those completing the two-dose sequence.
Granville County has seen 1,507 residents receive a first dose and 260 of those get the second. In Warren County, 217 people have gotten their first dose, with 31 having the full series.
DHHS said 1,405 residents of Franklin County have received first doses, with 31 completing the series.
The state’s figures indicate that about 2.3% of North Carolina’s population has received at least the first dose of a vaccine so far. The Associated Press reported that many states have vaccinated about 2% to 3% of their populations.
Contact Ray Gronberg at email@example.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.