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COVID-19 vaccine supply not keeping pace with NC age expansion

Any North Carolinian who is at least 65 years old is now eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Public health departments and healthcare systems in the Charlotte region said they don't have enough COVID-19 vaccines from the state to immediately begin vaccinating people who are 65 to 74 years old.

Governor Roy Cooper announced the decision to expand the state's vaccine requirements Thursday afternoon.

Gaston County leaders hope to begin taking appointments for the age group next week, with the first of those appointments scheduled, at the earliest, in February.

But public health director Steve Eaton warned in order to meet that schedule, they need the state to continue supplying consistent amounts of the vaccine.

"We don't know week to week how much vaccine we're going to get. We don't know in what quantity or what type," Eaton said. "The flow and the numbers of the vaccine we get are small."

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Eaton estimated roughly 40,000 people in Gaston County would be in the 65 to 74 years old age group.

In Charlotte, Novant Health's Dr. Pam Oliver said they have the ability to scale up their vaccine clinics to include the expanded age group, but they haven't received enough vaccines from the state.

"That is the complexity of the way that the state has planned this," Dr. Oliver said. "Even open up to a broader group, they do not have the supply to be able to accommodate those [people]."

Catawba County began yesterday allowing people ages 65 to 74 to make vaccine appointments, and almost immediately, the public health department said their phone lines were swamped.

Brooke Delk called about 50 times until she got through to schedule an appointment for her stepfather.

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"I was so excited! You don't think you'll be that excited for a health department vaccine call, but I was like, 'Oh I have a person!'" Delk said. "I have two small kids so I'm like, 'Be quiet! I'm making this appointment!'"

Catawba County's Public Health Department said the first appointments for the age group will occur next week, at the earliest.

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