Moore County will receive a dramatically reduced supply of the coronavirus vaccine over the next three weeks, according to the local health department.
Robert Wittmann, director of the department, said the amount of vaccine allotted to the county has been temporarily slashed by about 60 percent. The department’s weekly shipments are now expected to contain 400 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, down from 1,000 doses in previous weeks.
“We went from a trickle to drip when we needed this to be turned on like a firehose,” Wittmann said.
Addressing the Moore County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Wittmann said FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital is seeing a comparable reduction in shots. Both the health department and the hospital are currently working to inoculate older adults in Moore County under Phase 2 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.
Counties across the state are set to receive smaller shipments of vaccines throughout February. Wittmann said the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is diverting some of its supply, which has been tapered by the federal government, to large-scale vaccination clinics in densely populated cities like Charlotte.
“The state has cut the amount of vaccines going to different counties to feed these mega-vaccination sites,” he said.
In a presentation to the Moore County Board of Health on Monday, Matt Garner, public information officer for the health department, said the demand for vaccination far exceeds the county’s supply. He said over 14,500 residents have pre-registered for vaccination through the department, which has so far administered doses to 4,006 people.
Most of the shots have gone to residents aged 75 and older, according to Garner. While the health department recently opened up its pre-registration process to people aged 65 to 74, the agency has yet to vaccinate anyone in this group because it is still working through its list of older citizens who signed up in mid-January.
People aged 65 and older make up nearly a quarter of the county’s total population. During Tuesday’s meeting, Frank Quis, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, pointed out that the same “population group is as low as 8 percent in some of our surrounding counties.”
“It is so frustrating because our state partners know what the demographics are in Moore County, and to cut the number of vaccines available for this vulnerable population is like having the rug pulled out from under you,” Quis said. “I’m not happy about it.”
DHHS said 13,761 vaccine doses had been administered in Moore County as of Monday. Over 11,370 people in the county have received the first dose of the vaccine, which requires two shots to be fully effective. The second shot has been administered to more than 2,380 people, according to the state.
When more doses eventually become available, the health department will at least have some extra help dispensing them. Wittmann said the National Guard has provided the department with a six-person “strike team” to assist with the county’s vaccine rollout.
Moore County recently reached another coronavirus milestone, with the total number of confirmed cases topping 7,000.
The influx of new cases since New Year’s Day is particularly concerning. Over 2,200 infections, or nearly 32 percent of the county’s total cases, were added in January alone.
At the same time, Garner said, many of the county’s key metrics have shown improvement in recent weeks.
He noted that the county saw a record seven-day moving average of 94 new infections on Jan. 8, a number that has since fallen to 55. The county’s positivity rate for coronavirus testing, which reached an all-time high of 19.4 percent on Jan. 11, now stands at about 10.3 percent.
“We’re happy to report that we’ve seen some declines, and we hope to continue to see things fall in that direction,” Garner said.