Mandy Cohen urges patience as vaccine rollout slowly accelerates

By John Trump

Raleigh, NC – State health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen updated N.C. residents on COVID-19 vaccinations Thursday, January 21.

North Carolina health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen

She said the state is accelerating the rate in which people are vaccinated, so far administering more than 569,000, 10th most in the U.S., she said. That’s a 133% increase over recent weeks. State officials, including Cohen and Gov. Roy Cooper, have been the targets of criticism for the slow rollout of the vaccines. She says state officials are constrained by supplies.

Health providers are using all first doses available, she said.

“Those first doses need to get off the shelf and given to people each and every week.” 

The first couple of questions from reporters Wednesday focused on the Biden administration and how it would affect vaccines in North Carolina. 

It’s mostly too early to tell. Cohen, for her part, commended the president for his mask mandate, requiring them on federal property. She says masks are the best way to stop the spread of the disease.

COVID cases in North Carolina, though still too high, are stabilizing, she said. 

North Carolina’s approach to the vaccine differs from other states, including the practice of distributing it as evenly as possible, building capacity everywhere rather than focusing on large populations, Cohen said.

An overarching frustration, though, hangs over the state as many people struggle to learn how, when, and where they can get vaccinated.

She advised people to start with local hospitals and health departments to get vaccines, reminding people they aren’t restricted to their home county. She preached patience.

Cohen also announced a free ride program for people traveling to health providers for a vaccine. Administered by the N.C. Department of Transportation, some $2.5 million from COVID relief money will go toward funding the program, which will cover about 30,000 people, Eric Boyette, state transportation secretary, said.

Nevertheless, it will be several months before most North Carolinians are vaccinated, Cohen said. Of the state’s 100 counties, 86 are in the “red,” which, says Cohen, means significant spread.