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Triad health department sees demand drop 'dramatically' after all groups become eligible for vaccine in North Carolina

Randolph County Health Director Susan Hayes said the department has considered doing walk-in appointments, but aren't giving out the vaccine fast enough.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — A number of vaccine sites are now offering walk-ins as everyone is now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina, but one Triad health department said it's struggling to get first doses into arms.

Forsyth County, Yadkin County, North Carolina A&T University, and UNC Greensboro are some sites in the Triad offering walk-ins for the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday. 

Forsyth County Health Director Joshua Swift said they decided to start offering walk-up appointments after several people didn't show up for appointments. 

"Around five to seven percent, some days it could be as high as 10 percent. So, we want to do something to see if we could spark more interest and get more people," said Swift.

Randolph County Health Director Susan Hayes said they've considered the idea of advertising walk-ins, but fear with a dramatic drop in demand, vials of vaccines could be wasted. 

"It is very complicated. It is very difficult to manage to make sure we keep it safe and it's not wasted," said Hayes. 

She said six doses come in the vials of Pfizer they administer, and once a vial is opened, the entire container needs to be used within 6 hours. 

"We are seeing a dramatic decline right now in interest and my understanding is that is being seen across the state and the message I want to get out to everyone today about that is – when folks who are unvaccinated don’t get vaccinated, we are giving the virus the opportunity to continue to infect people and mutate and the more mutations and variants we have the longer well stay in the mess we’re in," said Hayes.

Hayes said two weeks ago, the health department gave out 1,170 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is their weekly base allocation. The week after, Hayes said the health department only distributed half that number. 

"This week we're not even close to half. That’s how dramatically it has dropped off," she said. 

Now, Hayes said she'll likely decline next week's shipment of first doses from the state, with so many leftover from previous shipments. 

"It's of grave concern. We’ve got to get people vaccinated," said Hayes. 

UNC Greensboro said it's offering walk-ins to make the process easier for students to take advantage of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The university received 700 doses last week, and another 2,5000 this week to distribute on campus. 

"We actually were fortunate enough to receive 2,500 doses of J&J to be given out today, tomorrow, and Monday," said Julia Jackson-Newsom with UNCG, "Students are in the last weeks of the semester and juggling the normal heavy workload that tends to come during this time." 

The Guilford County Health Department is not offering walk-in appointments at this time but said several sites opening up in the last few weeks have provided more options in the community. 

The health department said it had almost 9,000 slots available, filling about 92% of those by midday Thursday.