Vidant Health ‘confident’ in goal to vaccinate 4K people per week

Published: Jan. 20, 2021 at 8:38 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Vidant Health announced they vaccinated more than 10,000 people across their hospital region and plan to distribute more doses in a large-scale effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Pitt County.

The Pitt County Health Department held its weekly briefing on Wednesday with Pitt County Manager Scott Elliot and Vidant Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum in attendance.

Pitt County had an overall decrease in the number of total cases reported over the last 14 days, a total difference of more than 300 cases.

Pitt County Data for Jan. 19, 2021.
Pitt County Data for Jan. 19, 2021.(WITN)

The number of active cases per 1,000 people decreased and so did percent positivity, which is a “good indicator,” according to Dr. John Silvernail, Pitt County Health Director.

Vaccine rollout is stalled in several counties in eastern North Carolina due to high demand and limited supply of the vaccine. But Vidant Health, Pitt County, ECU and other organizations partnered up with a goal to administer more than 4,000 vaccines per week depending on the state’s vaccine allocations, Vidant Health said.

Vidant Health CEO Dr. Michael Waldrum said he’s confident they can vaccinate 4,000 people next week at the Greenville Convention Center as 8,000 people have preregistered so far. The health system will follow an appointment system to make sure they don’t schedule people too far out without knowing how much will be distributed in the supply chain, from the federal government to the state to eastern North Carolina.

An appointment is required for eligible residents and scheduling details will be announced in the coming days, according to Vidant Health.

“The best way to assure a good match of supply and demand is to have an appointment system,” Waldrum said. “So, making sure that you’re not just overwhelmed by a line. Right now, we’re vaccinating people over age 65 and we are trying to make sure that we match our supply and demand and control the demand to the highest best use.”

The vaccine effort led by Vidant and Pitt County is a historic opportunity Waldrum said they’re eager to take.

“This is a really big undertaking, and we’re just starting. We’re just starting to do something that none of us have in the country have ever done.”

Dr. Silvernail said the first week of distribution may be slower but he looks forward to growth where the health department can reach other communities.

“Having a large community site like this that’s jointly operated allows us as the health department to potentially reach out to some of those historically marginalized communities and do some targeted vaccines in those communities,” Silvernail said. “We’re talking internally about that now and hope to have a clinic in one of those communities before the end of the month to supplement this dispensing effort, not to displace this dispensing effort.”

The capacity of the vaccine supply is a challenge that will require patience and cooperation from everyone.

“Even if we had those [vaccines] for everybody there’d still be a process to distribute it,” Silvernail said. “If we said that there’s 185,000 doses it would still be weeks to get those doses into everybody’s arm for the first shot and then we’ve got to turn around and do it again.”

Although the vaccine offers hope, Vidant Health encourages everyone to do their part to keep people safe by wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and maintaining social distance.

“It is very important that we remember that safety and protecting our families and our communities and decreasing the fires that is COVID is really important right now.”

Dr. Waldrum said the mass site is part of a larger plan to serve eastern North Carolina but they’ll have to make sure they have enough workforce to provide safely.

“We have multiple different initiatives and channels to open up vaccination venues that are either small like having mobile sites,” Waldrum said. “I would encourage anyone that can help and understand the importance of this for our region and our economy and our lives to help us do that, so retired physicians, nurses, other folks, we will be communicating on the way to volunteer or to be employed to do that work.”

Waldrum said officials will go through the list of those who are preregistered and then communicate on how to get appointments when spots open up, which people can sign up for updates HERE.

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