Cooper visits Duke Hospital to observe COVID-19 vaccinations

Published 11:27 pm Monday, December 21, 2020

By Lucille Sherman
The News & Observer

DURHAM — As coronavirus cases in North Carolina and across the country continue to climb ahead of the holidays, Gov. Roy Cooper visited Duke Hospital Monday to witness employees receive a glimmer of hope: COVID-19 vaccinations.

It’s the second week that vaccines are being administered throughout North Carolina and the rest of the country, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization to the vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.

“What a wonderful thing to get these vaccines into people’s arms and to begin the process of turning the corner on this pandemic,” Cooper said Monday.

Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, toured the hospital and thanked workers checking in, waiting in line, receiving and administering vaccinations.

Fifty-three hospitals across North Carolina received the Pfizer vaccine last week, with more hospitals expected to receive a second batch. As of Friday, the state was expecting 61,425 doses this week, according to NC DHHS spokeswoman Kelly Haight.

As Cooper toured the facility, he spoke with a mother and daughter who are both nurses at Duke.

Debra Freeman, 57, is a nurse manager and received her vaccination from her 27-year-old daughter, Kayleigh McCoy, Monday morning.

As Freeman received her shot, Cooper thanked them for their work.

Meanwhile, the state also is expecting the Moderna vaccine to arrive this week. That vaccine received the FDA’s emergency use authorization Friday. North Carolina’s first batch is expected to be 175,900 doses, health officials said.

Around half of the Moderna vaccinations will go to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The other half will go to hospitals and local health departments.

Cohen said on Monday morning she had received reports that local health departments were beginning to receive their shipments of the Moderna vaccine.

“We know the vaccine is going to arrive over the next number of days, but it’s exciting to see us able to get vaccines to even more places in our state,” Cohen said.

Monday afternoon, the Durham County Department of Public Health confirmed it had received a shipment of 3,200 Moderna vaccines.

According to the state’s vaccination plan, healthcare workers and first responders who work directly with COVID-19 patients are slated to receive the vaccination first. Next will come residents at nursing homes, long-term care facilities and other congregate living settings.

A panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that certain essential workers, including firefighters, public transit workers, teachers and grocery store staff, as well as people 75 and older should be next in line, The Associated Press reported. The CDC director and states have not incorporated the new guidance into their vaccination rollout plans yet.

Cooper and Cohen’s tour comes as North Carolina reported 6,900 new cases of the coronavirus Sunday — the third-highest number since the pandemic began. The 7-day rolling average number of cases also reached a new high Sunday, with an average of 6,082 cases per day.

Over the last week, more than 400 people have died of the coronavirus, according to the state health department.

Following the tour, Cooper and Cohen both emphasized that while batches of vaccinations continue to arrive in the state, North Carolinians should continue to be careful and “work hard right now.”

“Don’t wait until it’s your family member that’s here at Duke or another hospital that’s sick with COVID to wear a mask,” Cohen said. “Don’t wait. Do it right now.”

Cohen also encouraged North Carolinians to think about changing their holiday plans, saying residents should avoid traveling or gathering.

“If you do, please do think about getting a test right now,” Cohen said. “And remember mask, mask, mask, all the time to protect you and your loved ones from this, unfortunately, deadly disease.”