New Hanover Prepares For Vaccine As First Doses Arrive In North Carolina

By Scott Nunn, posted Dec 14, 2020
Shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrive at Atrium's Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte on Monday. (Photo courtesy of Atrium Health)
A little over nine months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the state, the first doses of an approved vaccine arrived in North Carolina on Monday in what Gov. Roy Cooper described as a “remarkable achievement for science and health.”

Katie Passaretti, Charlotte-based Atrium Health's medical director of infection prevention, was the first person in North Carolina to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was granted emergency approval Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Pasaretti called it a “moment of hope” and a “potential for change of the course that we’re on.”

The highly contagious respiratory disease has killed more than 300,000 people in the U.S. and disrupted almost every aspect of life.

State health officials designated 11 locations to receive the limited first shipments of the vaccine to North Carolina, including Bladen County Hospital in Elizabethtown.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center will be receiving 2,925 doses this week, although spokesman Julian March was not yet able to provide the exact timing as of Monday afternoon.

“NHRMC plans to follow the COVID-19 vaccine distribution guidance released by the CDC and N.C. DHHS,” March said. “Initially, vaccines will be made available for healthcare personnel who are at highest risk of exposure to the virus, such as those providing direct care to COVID-19 patients. As more vaccines become available, other groups will become eligible for vaccination.”

The next wave of shipments will be going to long-term care facilities enrolled in the CDC's Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program, according to Jessica Loeper, chief communications officer for New Hanover County.

The county’s public health department is working with state and hospital partners to prepare for an efficient distribution of the vaccine locally over four phases, Loeper said Monday.

“Subsequent deliveries of a COVID-19 vaccine will be for first responders, long-term care and congregate living staff and residents, and people with two or more chronic health conditions, indicating high risk of complications from COVID-19,” Loeper said.

Kristen Barnhardt, spokeswoman for Novant Health, said plans for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine are still in the works and timing remains fluid.

“We continue to conduct practice runs of procurement, distribution and administration as well as team member training, and we will communicate more details as they become available,” Barhnhardt said Monday.

Novant owns Brunswick Medical Center, which is scheduled to receive 975 doses in the first phase of deliveries. The Winston-Salem-based medical system is awaiting final approval of its recent purchase of NHRMC.

Full implementation of the four-phase vaccination plan is expected to take up to nine months.
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