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Too Much Demand, Not Enough Supply

Too Much Demand, Not Enough Supply

There is not nearly enough supply as far as the COVID-19 vaccinations are concerned, and there is an understandably overwhelming demand for the vaccine during the growing pandemic. There has also been a little confusion amongst the general public, and what appears to be a lack of coordination and communication between state government officials, local county health departments and local hospitals. All of this has caused problems with the vaccine getting administered to the public quickly.
On Monday and Tuesday, individuals calling the Forsyth County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) experienced extremely long wait times when they called to set up an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccination. Some individuals reported to us that they waited two and half hours before they were disconnected. On Monday, Public Health had 10 staff members answering calls that booked over 400 vaccinations for Wednesday. This wasn’t nearly enough, and more staff has been brought in to answer calls. The staff also added a queue that callers will be put in to wait instead of getting a message to call back. This still might not be enough. FCDPH officials acknowledged there were over 700 callers on the line on Tuesday night. However, we don’t think this is the fault of the FCDPH at all.
Initially county health departments across the state were under the assumption that they would operate under Phase 1A, which is giving vaccines to health care workers caring for people with COVID-19, individuals at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. This is what county health departments were prepared for. However, just last week Secretary of NC Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Cohen and Gov. Cooper announced the state would begin Group 1 of Phase 1B of the COVID-19 rollout, which is for seniors 75 and over. In Forsyth County alone that added thousands of individuals to the list of people eligible for the vaccine that the Department of Health would have to facilitate. It is little wonder that the phone lines were completely overwhelmed, not just at our local health department, but in pretty much every county health department across the state.
“We ask for your continued patience as we navigate these uncharted waters,” Deputy County Manager Shontell Robinson wrote in a press release on Wednesday.
These are indeed uncharted waters and, as much as most people want to get the vaccine, patience is needed. Better coordination and communication is also needed. The state did not give local county health departments any time to prepare for thousands more requests for the vaccine. The departments were not provided with enough people, resources or funding that they needed either. This was a failure of leadership by Cohen and Cooper, who should have foreseen the chaos that the surprise announcement of moving to Group 1 of Phase 1B of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout would cause. They should have known better and they should have done better. In response to the surge, Cooper has deployed 50 members of the National Guard. We have 100 counties in our state. This is not nearly enough to get the job done.
Part of the problem is a lack of communication and a lack of properly informing the public. For example, many of the calls to county health departments in our state were from individuals who are not currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, only those in Phase 1A or Group l of Phase 1B should call county health departments to try to set up an appointment for the vaccine.
We should all hope that the rest of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is a much smoother and faster process, but it will take some time. The FCDPH stated that “the vaccinations won’t be operating at a larger scale until more vaccine is available in February.” Hospitals are currently working to provide the vaccine for individuals 75 and over. The federal Department of Health and Human Services has formed a partnership with CVS Health and Walgreens to handle vaccinations for the majority of the country’s long-term health facilities.
The other stages for Phase 1B of the rollout involve health care and front line workers ages 50 and over, and front line and health care workers of any age. Reportedly, it will take several weeks before vaccinations will begin for these 1B subgroups. Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout is expected to cover over one million North Carolinians. Phase 3 will cover college and high school students. Phase 4, which will hopefully herald in herd immunity, is for anybody else who wants the vaccine. This is estimated to cover over 3.5 million North Carolinians, and those doses are expected to begin being available in March or April.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is a very complicated and unprecedented process and a lot of people are working very hard to make it happen. April may seem a long way away, but the best thing for us to do, including state and federal officials, is to stay away from doing anything that slows up the process.
-Kernersville News Editorial

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