John Elmore of The O'Neal School receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst

John Elmore of The O'Neal School receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst.

Despite having recently extended eligibility to all adults, Moore County is seeing reduced demand for the coronavirus vaccine.

Fewer residents are signing up for shots through the local health department. Robert Wittmann, director of the department, said the county appears to be approaching a “saturation point of the willing.”

“The supply has come to the point where we’re overtaking the current demand,” Wittmann said during Monday’s meeting of the Moore County Board of Health.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas, the county’s largest medical provider, is reporting a similar drop in interest. Emily Sloan, director of public relations for FirstHealth, said the company had several openings available for a vaccination clinic in Pinehurst on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we are experiencing a decrease in demand for the vaccine in Moore County,” she said.

Data from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services show that 25,046 residents, or about a quarter of the county’s total population, had been fully vaccinated as of Tuesday. Only six counties had higher percentages of inoculated residents, according to DHHS.

Nearly 55 percent of injections in Moore County have gone to people aged 65 and older. The same age group accounted for just 43 percent of vaccinations administered across the state.

“The elderly are doing pretty well, but it’s the young folks that we’re going to need to bring along,” Wittmann said. “But the good news is that the elderly are the ones at the highest risk. The more we get those people vaccinated and build a bubble around them, the less problematic the younger people are going to be.”

He added: “A lot of the younger people come down with the disease with either mild or no symptoms, and then they walk away with immunity without having to get vaccinated the old-fashioned way.”

Still, Wittmann said the health department is “stepping up our educational campaign” to encourage more residents to get vaccinated. He said the agency is using social media videos, posters and billboards to reach younger residents and people in marginalized communities.

The Moore County Health Department is administering shots by appointment at its office and at the neighboring Agricultural Center building in Carthage. In order to receive an appointment, residents must call (910) 947-7468 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays or from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The hotline is not staffed on Mondays or weekends.

FirstHealth of the Carolinas is holding twice-a-week vaccination clinics at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst. Appointments must be scheduled online at schedule.firsthealth.org.

“We encourage anyone who wants a vaccine to register,” Sloan said.

Making Progress

Matt Garner, public information officer for the health department, said the area’s coronavirus trends have improved following two consecutive months of declining cases.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Garner told the health board on Monday. “We’re creeping back down to the numbers that we saw in September and October.”

He noted that the county saw a rolling average of nine new infections for the week that ended March 24, the fewest recorded since July 18.

The county’s positivity rate for coronavirus testing stood at 5.3 percent on Monday, lower than the statewide average of 7 percent. Only four Moore County residents were being treated for COVID-19 at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, according to the health department.

A total of 8,440 cases have been confirmed in Moore County since the start of the pandemic, and at least 188 residents have died of the disease. More-contagious variants of the virus have been identified in other parts of the state, but Garner said those variants have yet to reach the Sandhills.

“The good news is early indications tell us that all of the currently available vaccines are effective at protecting people against the three variants,” he said.

Leo Santowasso, chairman of the Moore County Board of Health, said he was encouraged by the data presented on Monday.

“Everything seems to be trending in the right direction, even though some other parts of the country are having spikes,” he said.

(11) comments

Sharon Widing

Perhaps we need to get more vaccine to local pharmacies and grocery stores

Kent Misegades

He added: “A lot of the younger people come down with the disease with either mild or no symptoms, and then they walk away with immunity without having to get vaccinated the old-fashioned way.” Bingo! The old fashioned way - live normally and get plenty of sunshine and oxygen, which you don’t get when cowering indoors and breathing through a mask, or two, or three. This works for people of all ages. Living great without masks - Reopen NC - MAGA!

Tamara Vigne

You just don’t get it, Kent, whether through stubbornness or stupidity. Just because someone doesn’t suffer severe effects, this does not negate the fact that they can still spread the virus. The reason that the country is not fully ‘open’ is because of people like you who refuse to do their part to inhibit the spread of the virus.

You are the one who is cowering, afraid to wear a mask or get a vaccine.

Jim Tomashoff

Tammy, my take is that Kent is neither stubborn nor stupid. He is a self-important know-it-all, arrogant, and without an ounce of empathy for anyone. Oh, and he's a victim of the worst prejudice in the Country, he says, inasmuch as he's a white southern man. He's also, so he says a "christian," except that his beliefs run counter to just about every teaching of Jesus.

Rachel Cullen

Why do people feel the need to force their beliefs on others? It would seem this is because they are uncertain of the surety of their beliefs, Human persons naturally desire the good - if something is truly good, people will naturally engage in it. If it is not, however, people must be forced and coerced into the behavior.

COVID-19 vaccines are a very good thing for those who are at increased risk - they are however, not the only solution to this virus. Immunity is also acquired through wild exposure. If the elderly are most at risk, all those in this category should have first access to the vaccine. For the younger class who is least at risk - they can get the vaccine or get the virus - it’s their choice.

No one has the right to force a vaccine or force mask usage - that is a direct violation of the Freewill of the human person.

Furthermore, no one has a right to force their beliefs on another. If you believe a mask will keep you safe, you have the right to wear one. Just as if you don’t believe a mask will protect you - you also have a right not to wear one.

At one point in America, we acknowledged people’s right of Freewill. Now however, it would seem we are trending very rapidly to an authoritarian rule where one set of beliefs is being imposed as the “solution”. This is incredibly dangerous, and a total violation of the First Amendment.

Please don’t make assumptions about people’s beliefs or actions, - instead, ask them why they are doing what they are doing, if you don’t understand it. Everyone has a particular situation, it it is a great inequality to force one solution on all people.

Jim Tomashoff

Rights, rights, rights. But nothing about responsibility towards others. No, you do not have the right to infect others with a potentially deadly disease. I think the 550,000 dead Americans would rather see you focus on your responsibility towards others.

Dusty Rhoades

Demanding rights without responsibilities isn't freedom. It's adolescence.

Dusty Rhoades

You know what? You're right. I shouldn't be persecuted for the belief that I should be able to drink a fifth of rum and get behind the wheel. If I don't believe I could hurt other people with my actions. then no one has any right to deny me. Down with authoritarian DWI laws! FREEEEEEEDOM!

Sally Larson

Rachel, this isn't about "belief", it's about scientific facts.

Dusty Rhoades

This is why y'all lost the White House and the Senate.

Mark Hayes

Yep, you got that right.

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