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North Carolinians in need of a vaccine can probably find one at the coast

Dr. Arin Piramzadian, Chief Medical Officer at StarMed, runs clinics across the state. His Charlotte-area clinic filled up in minutes, but interest is low at a clinic in Jacksonville.
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - StarMed’s Pfizer clinic in Onslow County bears a sign that reads “by appointment only.” That wasn’t the case Thursday.

Low interest in the vaccine forced the state-contracted vaccine provider to welcome anyone 16 and older in, no appointment necessary, because they had 800 appointments that went unfilled.

“I wouldn’t say it’s an issue, just yet.” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Arin Piramzadian. “It’s definitely concerning that we didn’t have enough people, but I hope that changes next week.”

He’s blaming it on the impending holiday, and people not wanting to be potentially sore and feverish over the weekend. But, he also says it could be because of the increased availability in the vaccine, as opposed to its availability at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I hope that once the word gets out that there’s an abundance of vaccines it’s open to phase five that everyone’s willing to come out and get vaccinated,” he said.

So far, only about 12% of people in Onslow County have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared to a statewide rate of about 24%, according to state data.

But the interest is evident across the rest of the state. StarMed also runs a vaccine clinic in Mecklenburg County, near Charlotte. A clinic there with 3,000 available doses filled up in minutes and crashed their system, according to Piramzadian.

If the county has truly reached the people who are eligible and interested, that could mean fewer vaccines for the area in the next shipment.

“We want to make sure that it stays in Onslow County,” said Piramzadian. “But, realistically, if there isn’t as much of a need, eventually, the state is going to turn around and take it out of Onslow County. And that’s been our biggest fear from day one. If you don’t get everyone vaccinated that wants to get vaccinated, and you have a surplus, eventually the state will take it away.”

StarMed has not wasted a single dose of the vaccine, according to Piramzadian, but options are few if vaccine is leftover. The provider can either send it to an area that needs it, or get people in by any means necessary.

“We actually go into the community itself. If the community is not coming to us, we go to you. We have gone to migrant farms, we’ve gone to churches, we show up at nursing facilities. I literally stop people in the middle of the road, and I pull anyone over and vaccinate them.”

You can sign up for a vaccine appointment with StarMed here.

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