- On January 9, 2021
Wake County Public Health will start vaccinating residents ages 75 and older against COVID-19 on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Wake County Public Health has made significant progress in vaccinating Phase 1a and is ready to roll into Phase 1b of the process.
“We’ve taken a major step forward in providing protection to our healthcare workers, and now, we’re poised to give the vaccine to our older residents who are at greater risk of serious health problems if they contract the virus,” said Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Matt Calabria. “We strongly encourage anyone 75 or older to consider rolling up their sleeves and getting the shots to safeguard themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.”
How the Vaccination Process Will Work
Wake County Public Health’s COVID-19 response team has worked diligently to create a process that ensures none of our seniors waits outside in a long line in the bitter cold to get vaccinated only to find out the day’s allotment of doses is gone when they get to the door.
To avoid this scenario, the team has built a new tool that will allow residents ages 75 or older to express interest in getting vaccinated, and essentially reserve their place in line. Then, when supply allows, the team will reach out to them to schedule an appointment. That way, they’ll know exactly when and where to get their shot, making for an easy and efficient experience.
The tool will go live in two ways on Jan. 19. It’ll be accessible on our website and via a special phone line staffed by customer service representatives. The county will share the phone number and the web address, as well as more details about the process, as we get closer to Jan. 19.
Limited Supply of the Vaccine
Wake County Public Health is one of five healthcare providers in the county to receive shipments of the vaccine. The others include the three local hospitals and UNC Wakebrook.
Together, the five entities have received 24,757 doses – with just 3,950 of them going to our Public Health clinic. To date, the county has administered 2,000 doses, with more than 2,000 additional doses scheduled to go in arms over the coming days.
“We’re moving quickly to vaccinate as many people as we can, according to the priority order established by the state,” said Dr. Jason Wittes, Wake County’s Pharmacy Director. “The challenge is we never know how much vaccine we’ll get from week to week, which has made planning for all the phases difficult.”
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for determining how much vaccine is allotted to each healthcare provider in each county and when they receive it.
There are 53,000 people in Wake County who fall into the 75 and older age group. If only half of them request an appointment to get vaccinated, Dr. Wittes and his team still don’t have enough supply to serve them all right now. It will take time – and patience – to meet the demand.
Partnering with Local Healthcare Providers
To help, Wake County Public Health is partnering with Duke Raleigh Hospital, UNC Health, and WakeMed Health and Hospitals to expand accessibility to the vaccine for seniors ages 75 and older, with each partner making their own decision as to when they begin vaccinating persons in Phase 1b.
Since the hospitals have the bulk of the doses, they can bolster the limited amount of vaccine Wake County Public Health has by several thousand doses and, ultimately, help inoculate more people in this high-risk group.
“This is why the scheduling process is critical,” said Dr. Wittes. “By asking seniors to request an appointment, we can match up our collective supply with the demand and offer the vaccine in a measured and methodical way.”
Wake County Public Health will continue providing first and second doses of the vaccine to healthcare workers in Phase 1a while it offers shots to the 75 and older age group.
Wake County Public Health will begin reaching out to local organizations that serve the elderly to inform them about the launch of Phase 1b.
Meanwhile, the county will continue answering questions from the community about the vaccine through its COVID-19 hotline – 919-250-1500 – and its email address – firstname.lastname@example.org.