In a January 8 letter to North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, Brunswick County Board of Commissioners Chairman Randy Thompson relayed concerns about the amount of COVID-19 vaccines being made available to county residents, especially older individuals.
In the letter, Thompson noted that since the recent transition to Phase 1b Group 1, several leaders and members of Brunswick County communities have reached out to the commissioners with concerns that Brunswick County is not receiving enough vaccines from the state to adequately address its senior population, while also continuing to vaccinate members of Phase 1a.
He told Cooper, “we are concerned not only because these are our residents most at risk of dying from this cruel disease (78 have already passed away to date sadly—most aged 65 or older), but also because a slower vaccination of this critical phase in our county might set us back from moving forward into Phase 1b Group 2 in a timely manner consistent with the rest of the state.”
Thompson underscored concerns about Brunswick County’s fast-growing senior population with statistical evidence.
“Brunswick County is recognized as one of the fastest growing counties in the state and nation, and a significant reason for that growth is because older individuals are choosing our county for their retirement,” he wrote. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that of Brunswick County’s nearly 143,000 residents, more than 15,000 are 75 and older and another 31,000 fall in the 65-to-74 age group—nearly a third of the county’s total population.
Thompson emphasized that Brunswick County is following the state’s vaccination plan closely to ensure it provides residents with a consistent message on where they fall in the vaccine distribution plan. In line with the state’s plan for counties to begin transitioning to Phase 1b Group 1, Brunswick County began scheduling appointments for eligible individuals January 6. However, with only 100 doses of the vaccine sent to the county health department that week—its smallest allocation yet—it took only 10 minutes to book those vaccines from more than 6,000 phone calls.
According to Thompson, the county is ready and more than capable to take on additional supplies of vaccines. For the past several months, the county has developed its vaccination plan in tandem with guidance available from the NCDHHS and the CDC. “We communicated through our channels with partners to ensure that as many individuals eligible under Phase 1a were notified as possible and were ready to receive a vaccine when they arrived in our county,” he stated to Cooper.
Brunswick County also acquired a transportable freezer trailer to accommodate versions of the vaccine, like Pfizer’s, that require ultra-cold storage in case that was the version the county received. At this time, Brunswick County has only received shipments of the Moderna vaccine.
The county has also partnered with both county hospitals, Brunswick Community College, and other area partners to combine forces with staffing and assets to establish a county mass vaccination clinic.
“It has been stressed that we need to get the vaccinations in the arms of our residents as soon as possible,” Thompson added. “We stand united with our community partners, ready and hopeful to receive more vaccines and do just that.”