Health department making plan for COVID-19 vaccinations

Published 6:44 pm Thursday, June 4, 2020

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Though it may be far in advance, Beaufort County Health Department staff is planning how it will roll out COVID-19 vaccinations when it becomes available.

Health Department Director Jim Madson told the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners at Monday night’s regular meeting that whether the vaccination comes to fruition as early as December or further down the road, they’re planning for the ability to vaccinate all Beaufort County residents.

“The goal will be to vaccinate as many people as want it in Beaufort County, when the time comes,” Madson said.

Preliminary plans include four pods of vaccinations consisting of vaccination clinics held for 10 days in Washington, followed by seven days in Chocowinity, five days in Aurora and five days in Belhaven. Madson said vaccinations would be made available to older residents before opening them up to the general public.

According to North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services statistics, 68% of North Carolina’s 900-plus deaths have occurred to older residents living in congregate facilities, including nursing homes.

Madson gave the latest breakdown of the trajectory of the virus in North Carolina and the four factors state officials are looking at whether to move into Phase III of the state’s three-phase plan to reopen: the number of patients currently hospitalized; the number of people visiting emergency departments for COVID-like illnesses; the percentage of tests that come back positive for COVID-19; and the overall number of cases. Three of the four are stable.

“Out of the four indicators that they’re using, there’s one of them — the number of cases — that doesn’t look good,” Madson said, adding that he believes that number could be affected by the increase in tests being done statewide.

NCDHHS data also indicate the number of deaths statewide has dropped over the last several weeks, but Madson said the decrease could be due to one of two factors: earlier identification and better treatment or a delay in reporting deaths.

“I can’t tell you which one it is right now, but I’m hoping that it’s for better treatment out there,” he said.

COVID-19-related deaths in North Carolina have followed another national trend based on race. In North Carolina, white residents account for 59% of deaths; black residents for 34%.

“What this indicates is there’s a higher rate of death occurring in black and African American people. In North Carolina, 22% of the residents are black, so to have 34% dying, it shows a disproportionate number of people that are black that are dying.”

No deaths have occurred in Beaufort County. Madson said 2.5% of Beaufort County’s population has been tested for the virus.