Beginning today, January 6, individuals age 75 years or older can schedule required appointments with Brunswick County Health Services for a COVID-19 vaccination. The department is now transitioning to Phase 1b Group 1 of the state’s vaccination plan.

Under this phase, anyone 75 years or older, regardless of medical condition or residency, and who does not live in a congregate living facility, is eligible to receive the free vaccine from Brunswick County Health Services. Residents of any age at congregate living facilities already received, or will receive, their vaccinations through the CDC’s Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program as part of Phase 1a.

Health Services only has about 100 appointments available based on current vaccine supplies, so it is not possible to vaccinate everyone at once. If the county’s vaccines are already expended, the resident will be encouraged to call back another day or week, as the county should receive more vaccines from the state on a weekly basis.

“While we only have a small number of vaccines available, we wanted to open up to Phase 1b Group 1 to start the process of vaccinating this group as soon as possible,” Health and Human Services Director David Stanley said. “We expect to receive moredoses from the state next week.

“We stand ready to vaccinate more and partner with other providers to help vaccinate as more doses of vaccine are sent to our county.”

Health Services emphasizes that eligible individuals and/or their representatives follow these steps to schedule an appointment: 

• Call the Public Health Call Line at (910) 253-2339 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and select the option for vaccine information.

• Listen to the prompt and then select the option to enter the queue to schedule an appointment (as vaccine supply allows).

Brunswick County Health Services has a limited number of vaccines on hand at any time. Thus, requiring appointments under Phase 1b Group 1 will ensure that a vaccine is available when an individual calls, and will keep more vulnerable members of the population from waiting in lines.

Future supplies depend on how many vaccines NCDHHS sends to the county health department. The NCDHHS also decides what type of vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) the county receives. Individuals should receive the same type of vaccine for both doses.

Health Services is not aware of other health care providers in Brunswick County offering vaccinations at this time. Individuals should check their providers’ communication channels for more information on their vaccination plans. Individuals can still request a vaccine from Health Services if they have a different health care provider.

Because people who fall under future phases may be anxious to know when they are eligible to get the vaccine, Brunswick County recommends the best way to stay up-to-date is through the following resources:

• Vaccines Webpage: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/vaccines

• Latest Brunswick County Health Services news: https://www.brunswickcountync.gov/news/

• Email updates (Sunshine List): Subscribe at https://brunswickcountync.us8.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=56c9c730b9c8701dbaddd0f3c&id=a0fd5ca31d

Last Wednesday, December 30, the NCDHHS updated its vaccination plan to align with new federal recommendations. Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. According to NCDHHS, the changes simplify the phased rollout of vaccine and continue the state’s commitment to first protect health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“While there is still much to do, we head into 2021 with a powerful tool to stop this pandemic– vaccines,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “However, because supplies are very limited, it’s going to be several months before vaccines are widely available to everyone. Until most people are vaccinated, everyone needs to continue to wear a mask, wait six feet apart, and wash their hands.”

North Carolina’s updated plan:

Phase 1a: Health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents. Hospitals and local health departments are vaccinating health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19 and those giving vaccines. In addition, the federal government is vaccinating long-term care residents and staff. 

Phase 1b: Adults 75 years or older and frontline essential workers. This phase of vaccinations will open in groups:

Group 1 (now open in Brunswick County): Anyone 75 years or older regardless of medical condition or living situation. People do not have to have a chronic health condition.

Group 2: Health care and frontline essential workers who are 50 years of age or older. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (firefighters, police), education (child care, teachers, support staff), manufacturing, corrections officers, public transit, grocery store, food and agriculture, and U.S. postal workers.Note that the county health department does not have a set date to transition to Phase 1b Group 2. It will likely take several weeks to adequately vaccinate individuals under Phase 1b Group 1. Health Services will provide more information on when and how it plans to distribute vaccines to subsequent phases and groups when it prepares for each transition.

Group 3: Frontline workers of any age and health care workers of any age, regardless of whether they work directly with COVID-19 patients.

Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.

In this phase, vaccinations will also open in groups:

Group 1: Anyone ages 65-74 years regardless of medical condition or living situation.

Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years with a medical condition that increases risk of severe disease from COVID-19.

Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who has not already been vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.

Group 4: Essential workers who have not yet been vaccinated. The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers

Phase 3: Students, including college, university and high school students age 16 or older.

Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

Phase 4:  Finally, anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine will be able to get one.

All vaccine providers are expected to ensure that vaccine is administered equitably within each group. NCDHHS notes that it has a specific focus on building trust with historically marginalized populations. Longstanding and continuing racial and ethnic injustices in the health care system contribute to lack of trust in vaccines, and the department is partnering with trusted leaders and organizations to provide accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines to all North Carolinians and ensure equitable access to vaccines.