RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With a quarter of North Carolina’s adult population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Monday, vaccine providers say they’re hopeful the increasing supply of vaccines will help to minimize the effects of another surge of cases.
“That is the fight we’re facing right now exactly, is to use every possible dose of vaccine we’re provided, get it into people’s arms as quickly as possible and maintain the other ways we stay safe,” said Dr. Thomas Owens, president of Duke University Hospital.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday that 38.4 percent of the adult population is partially vaccinated while 25.2 percent of that group is fully vaccinated.
Duke Health recently administered its 200,000th dose of vaccine. This week, everyone 16 and older becomes eligible statewide to get vaccinated.
“We are not out of the woods yet, and there’s a very real probability of a fourth surge, if you will, that may be starting in the Midwest in parts of the country now and could be coming to North Carolina,” Dr. Owens said.
He noted the uptick in cases in North Carolina leading up to the recent holidays and said there could be increased spread from people gathering indoors.
“If we get higher rates of vaccination faster, it means we can maintain some of the reopening and some of the more normal activities we’ve been able to restart,” he said. “If we don’t get our vaccination rates up faster over the coming weeks or months, I would worry we may have to put more time and energy into that physical distancing, avoiding large gatherings of people, avoiding proximity and of course still continued masking.”
Last week, North Carolina received more than 500,000 doses of vaccine, crossing the half-million mark for the first time.
Dr. Owens said the accelerating pace of vaccinations is helping to cut the waitlist at Duke, and in a matter of days people could schedule appointments with no waitlist at all.
“Hopefully, everyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get that by some time in May in North Carolina with the increased supply,” he said.
A recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Public Research found 75 percent of adults are either willing to get the vaccines or already have received one dose. That’s up from 67 percent in late January, the AP noted.
Keith and Danielle Douglas of Zebulon said they had been hesitant to get vaccinated.
Keith Douglas, who is an essential worker, said he had planned to wait a year to see how other people reacted to the vaccine. Danielle said she had concerns about the vaccine being new.
Ultimately, after doing research and talking to family members they both decided that it was time to sign up for vaccinations. They both received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine Monday in Raleigh.
“This is for our children. In order for our kids to get out there and to live the lives that we grew up with, we have to step up,” said Danielle Douglas.
Keith Douglas said his mind changed after seeing his mother and brother get vaccinated with no serious side effects.
“My brother, he’s a diabetic and he got his, so I went ahead and said, ‘OK what do I have to lose?” he said. “It starts to help the process of getting everybody back to normal of everybody doing their part and getting the vaccine.”
Dr. Owens said addressing hesitancy or skepticism about the vaccine will be critical to reach more of the population.
“We do still see hesitancy, particularly among some younger people who may not feel they’re as high risk and worry about vaccine side effects despite the science that shows they’re safe,” he said.