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'This just doesn't seem fair' | Concerns with who gets the COVID-19 vaccine first

Vaccines for long term care residents are expected December 28 at the earliest. The son of two residents is worried that won't be fast enough.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Healthcare workers will be the first to get the coronavirus vaccine according to the state but some have concerns about how long it could take before other vulnerable people get vaccinated.

"If the elderly received it first, I don't think lives in the hospital among nurses and doctors would be lost," Todd Jones said.

Jones is a Greensboro pastor and the son of two independent living residents. He said they live at Friends Home West and he worries about their wait to get vaccinated.

"What we've seen is just a decline in his health, but also my mom just mentally," Jones said.

Cases are spiking and Jones said visitor restrictions are tightening. The promise of geting the vaccine helped his parents in isolation.

"Our hope (was) since they are the most vulnerable that they would be the first in line to get the vaccine," Jones said, "I haven't even had the heart to tell them."

Well Spring Retirement Community CEO Steve Fleming said the earliest that long term care facilities will get the vaccine could be December 28 because they're waiting for Moderna's vaccine.

He said the Moderna shots will be easier for retirement facilities to store because they don't need to be kept as cold as Pfizer's.

"We do realize that skilled nursing (residents) will come first, skilled nursing and assisted living," Fleming said.

It's not clear whether independent living residents like Jones' parents will have to wait longer than the end of the month.

"Is it a week, is it two weeks? If we get into 30 days I think all of us would be concerned," Fleming said.

It all leaves Jones wondering why his parents can't get it sooner.

The state said all of the 85,000 Pfizer vaccines expected next week will go to health care workers.

"This just doesn't seem right or fair. They've suffered the most I think through this pandemic of any population," Jones said.

WFMY News 2 asked NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen what went into distribution plans.

She said vaccinations for long term care facilities are run by the federal government and will be administered through partnerships with CVS and Walgreens. 

She also said the state always planned to make healthcare workers the top priority.

"That has been a universal recommendation from the National Academy of Medicine, from the CDC Advisory group and from our own North Carolina vaccine Advisory Committee," Cohen said.

Fleming said there's still a lot of upside to the timeline for when residents and workers at facilities like his will get vaccinated.

"We're still going to be the first to receive the vaccine by and large which we've got to feel very good about and it's who we should be vaccinating first quite frankly," Fleming said.

Jones just hopes people like his parents can hold on a little longer. Fleming said the first round of vaccinations at facilities like his could take through the end of January once they receive the vaccine.

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