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Rowan Health Department will switch approach for vaccinations, end drive-thru events

SALISBURY — In the previous few weeks, supply has vastly outpaced demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Rowan County.

Three weeks ago, when every adult became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Rowan County Health Department’s drive-thru vaccination clinic was left with roughly 350 unused vaccine doses. A Livingstone College mass vaccination clinic two weeks ago, about 280 doses went unused. Last week’s drive-thru at West End Plaza, which was moved to afternoon and evening hours to target workers, resulted in even more leftover doses.

“We barely touched the 1,170 (doses) last week,” said interim Rowan County Health Director Alyssa Harris. “… That tells us our approach needs to change.”

The glut of supply and lack of demand prompted the Health Department to cancel its first dose drive-thru clinics, starting this week, and halt all second-dose drive-thru clinics after wrapping up vaccinations for any people still in need. Remaining second-dose clinics are scheduled April 28, May 5 and May 12.

Instead of mass vaccination clinics in a drive-thru format, Harris says, the Rowan County Health Department will focus on more closely targeting people who haven’t yet received a shot. That will include going to employers and hosting vaccination clinics. It’s important, Harris said, to make getting a COVID-19 vaccine as easy as possible.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Monday 35,083 Rowan County residents, or 24.7% of the population, had received at least one dose of a vaccine. Of those, 26,608, or 18.7%, are considered fully vaccinated. Both numbers are close to the worst in the state.

Across the state, about 38% of North Carolinians have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Orange County is the best in the state, at 55.1%.

Harris said she’s hopeful that the county will eventually reach 50% of residents vaccinated.

A poll conducted by Elon University last month showed people with less than a bachelor’s degree, Republicans, Black North Carolinians and rural residents were more likely to say they did not plan to receive the vaccine or were not sure whether they would.

Another poll commissioned by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services found similar results. Groups most hesitant about receiving a vaccine included people who earn less than $25,000 per year, have a level of education that’s high school or lower and live in a rural area. Younger age groups were more likely to say they didn’t intend to receive a vaccine than older groups. Already, 60% of people 65 and older in Rowan County have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state poll showed the most significant concerns about vaccines included worries about side effects, not wanting to be “the test case” and that the person “would only take a vaccine if it was absolutely necessary for my health.”

Harris said another factor about Rowan County’s low vaccination rate may be that parts are “very rural” and preventative health care is not prioritized. People who work in manufacturing other other blue-collar jobs may not be able to take time off of work to receive a vaccination or want to leave work and go to a mass vaccination clinic, she said.

She said the Health Department already has completed vaccination clinics at some smaller employers, including TEAM Auto Group. Health Department staff members plan to work with the United Way to talk about vaccine hesitancy elsewhere and provide shots to people in the Rowan County Detention Center.

People who want the Health Department to have a vaccination clinic at their business can email covid-19@rowancountync.gov.

Other options locally for vaccinations include:

• Novant Health at the J.F. Hurley YMCA in Salisbury, 828 Jake Alexander Blvd. W. Walk-ins are accepted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. People can also schedule an appointment at getvaccinated.org.

• Chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.

• Grocery stores such as Walmart, Food Lion in Salisbury and China Grove as well as Sam’s Club.

• Local pharmacies such as Moose Pharmacy, the Medicine Shoppe, Country Pharmacy in Rockwell, Price Pharmacy and Cannon Pharmacy.

• Rowan Diagnostic Clinic and Cleveland Wellness Clinic.



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