If you’re 65 or older in Moore County, your best strategy at this point for the coronavirus vaccine is to go outside the county.

State health officials are badly frustrating vaccination efforts with a weak stream of vaccines to a county where almost a quarter of the population is eligible right now. Medical professionals are seriously telling people they’re better off making an appointment in Hoke or Cumberland counties.

And even if you do get an appointment in Moore County but you can’t drive or have anyone who can take you? You’re out of luck if you can’t get yourself to the Moore County Health Department in Carthage or the Fair Barn in Pinehurst, where FirstHealth and Pinehurst Medical Clinic are inoculating their patients.

This is our coronavirus vaccination strategy these days in Moore County. Hamstrung by a lack of a reasonable allotment of vaccine doses, and having little means of reaching out to those of limited mobility, our progress is creeping and uneven.

“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,” said County Commissioners Chairman Frank Quis.

Operation Warp Speed may have delivered a medical miracle, but this next phase of delivery might as well be Operation Warped Speed.

‘Trickle to a Drip’

Our problems — access and availability — are twofold, but the greatest problem is lack of available dosages. More doses are going to urban centers — like Fayetteville — for large-scale vaccination clinics. The state’s complex criteria for supply includes things like relative wealth and poverty and underserved health care populations. Moore ranks low in those metrics.

And so Moore County Health Department Director Robert Wittmann said last week doses have been slashed these next three weeks 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. FirstHealth is seeing similar cuts.

Now beginning our second full month of vaccinating, only about 2,700 have actually gotten vaccinated through the Health Department. FirstHealth, which is running vaccination clinics in Pinehurst as well as in Richmond, Hoke and Montgomery counties, is better, having administered more than 11,000 first doses overall and 4,500 first doses locally. So overall, Moore County has about 8 percent of its population with at least one dose of the vaccine.

“We went from a trickle to a drip when we needed this to be turned on like a firehose,” Wittmann said.

For Now, We’re Stuck

At some point, doses will increase. Access, though, has no answer waiting. Drugstores and grocery store pharmacies will get limited doses to administer for people meeting the current state guidelines. More distribution points is a start, but it still doesn’t address residents who may have no means of getting to an appointment.

Consider the residents at Southern Pines Gracious Retirement Living, who first were told they could get vaccines delivered and administered but then were later deemed “independent living” and scratched from the list. Many of these residents have no cars and, other than a community bus, no transport.

As the eligibility of vaccination increases, so too will accessibility issues. The answer is not, “Well, they need to find out how to get to us.” The answer, like most answers in public health, is expanding outreach.

Availability and access problems are not of the Health Department’s making, but at least access is within its realm to solve. Mr. Wittmann needs to get his staff thinking NOW about how to reach folks at Gracious Retirement Living and other disconnected, needy communities.

In the meantime, for the best opportunity to get stuck with a vaccine needle, you’re stuck with driving out of town. Here, we’re engaged in Operation Warped Speed.

(11) comments

Peyton Cook

My wife and I received our second shot at the Fair Barn today. Our first was on 19 Jan. We are in the 65 and up category. Today we were in and out in about 20 minutes. First Health and the volunteers deserve a lot of praise.

Conrad Meyer

Good for you Peyton. My wife and I are in the 65+ category and are waitlisted at the county and at FirstHealth.

We will look elsewhere since the idiots in Moore County cannot secure the appropriate number of doses for our demographic.

Roy Ross

Wonder why Boles hasn't been asked about this. No problem in Hoke County...no problem in Cumberland county. Boles can't get off his dead rear end...pretty typical of him. Hard to believe the republicans can't come up with someone who has an interest in Moore county....but typical republican no action.

I could load a school bus with the people I know that have gone to Hoke in the last week...and my wife today. Called at 3 and got an appt at 4:30.

Sharon Widing

I agree. Have addressed this on his Facebook page. No Response!

Judi Rhodes

Gee, Moore County voted Republican. The Democrats wouldn't be petty and vindictive would they? Naw, we are striving for Unity!!

Barbara Misiaszek

NC needed to get the number of shots in arms up. They did that going to larger population centers.Further,you and I know, their is a need to get them in the arms of minority communities as quickly as possible as well. That's just the facts.

John Misiaszek

Judi Rhodes

Still, someone made the decision to reallocate the vaccines from Moore County to Mecklenburg and other democratically dominated population center. We have minorities in Moore County that are as deserving of the vaccine as those in any other community.

Barbara Misiaszek

It's a numbers game.

John Misiaszek

Conrad Meyer

So who is going to step up and chirp to Raleigh and the Feds? Or are y'all going to just sit back and get treated unfairly? Go plead your case!

I detest it when the omniscient pooh-bahs in government pick winners and losers.

John H Hamblen

Hate to say this, but follow the money. Large population center with money and political influence get Vaccine in North Carolina. Small NC countys are like third world country's. Vaccine should not be a political issue.

Barbara Misiaszek

From what I understand,next Wed.and Fri. 1-4 PM at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville walk in clinic. First come first served while supplies last. If you go it should be early and be prepared to wait.

John Misiaszek

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