“Our trends are worrying,” North Carolina State Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said at a news conference on Tuesday. “People go to the emergency department and the positivity increases. Many people get seriously ill from COVID.”
But Cooper said there was hope on the horizon with possible permission from the US Food and Drug Administration for vaccines, Pfizer and Moderne.
WATCH: Governor Roy Cooper explains the COVID-19 vaccine distribution process
He said North Carolina is preparing to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which requires very cold storage.
“We are a big country with hundreds of miles of rural areas,” he said. “Everyone counts and we will work hard to overcome the challenges that our geography represents.”
Cooper said the country expects to get this version of the vaccine, because “Pfizer was the first to see the licenses. So we think this is what will be available and approved first.”
He said 84,800 is the number of doses the country has informed it will receive with the first shipment.
“This is what we expect at this time,” he said.
Cooper said the shipment will take place once the vaccine has been approved, after which there will be a second assignment as it becomes available.
“We know that when we get the first vaccine, we will focus on hospitals only,” he said. “That’s with the first 85,000 doses.”
After that, the state will focus on people in long-term care settings.
Then, adults with two or more conditions that put them at risk of contracting COVID-19 such as heart disease and diabetes can get the vaccine.
Cooper added: “When we get a second vaccine, we will get weekly doses of both vaccines and we will work through our groups that we have prioritized. So we cannot determine when we will reach adults with two or more. Circumstances but we think it will be in January.”
University of North Carolina professor and former Wake County Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin is a member of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine’s COVID-19 Vaccine Committee.
Dr. Devlin said the committee helped determine who would get the vaccine first. The goal is to vaccinate 75% of people in North Carolina.
“It will take some time before we can immunize everyone,” said Dr. Devlin. “We hope that by summer, we will have enough vaccine for everyone who takes it.”
Dr. Devlin stressed the need to reach out to marginalized and traditionally disenfranchised communities who are reluctant to receive vaccinations.
“We need to make sure that we communicate well with the public, the priority population so that people understand the information that this is a safe, effective vaccine, and when is the time to step up and get vaccinated.”
Q&A: Dr. Leah Devlin talks about COVID-19 distribution targets in North Carolina
Cooper said the earliest time state officials expect a vaccine is the middle of next week, December 15 or 16.
Additional customizations will take place week after week.
Most importantly, the governor assured residents that the vaccine will be free, even for those who are not covered by insurance.
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