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Health Department encourages community to spread word about COVID vaccine importance

Stanly County Health Department will not receive any new shipments of vaccine doses this week as demand for the vaccine continues to largely decline across the county.

The department received its last expected shipment of 1,170 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine last week, according to Wendy Growcock, public health specialist with the health department.

“It’s still pretty flat,” Growcock said about the number of people seeking vaccines. “We do still have people calling in and making appointments, but not a great increase at this point.”

She thinks one reason for the recent decline is because the window to receive a vaccination — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — often conflicts with work schedules. To help alleviate the problem, the department over the past few weeks has been vaccinating employees at their place of work.

“We’re trying to work with some of the major employers in the county to see if we can work with them and get their employees vaccinated on a schedule that fits them better,” Growcock said. “We’d really like to reach those folks to make it more convenient to them.”

The department is also working with diverse community leaders across the county to try and target different populations of residents that are still hesitant about getting vaccinated. In addition, Growcock said the department is creating posters encouraging people to get vaccinated, which will be displayed inside various businesses across the county.

A quarter of people in Stanly (almost 16,000) have been partially vaccinated while about 22 percent (almost 14,000) are now fully vaccinated, according to data from the state’s Health and Human Services Department. The county health department, as of Thursday, has administered 12,753 first doses and 10,325 second doses.

Statewide, more than half of the adults in North Carolina age 18 or older have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state Department of Health and Human Services reported Thursday.

“This is a significant milestone toward our goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19 and bringing summer back to North Carolina,” DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said in a press release.

Per NCDHHS data, 50.1 percent of adults are partially vaccinated and 43.1 percent are fully vaccinated.

The numbers have been fairly stable in Stanly recently with about 15 to 20 new COVID cases on average per day. With many older residents already vaccinated, many of the new cases appear to come from younger people.

For the week of April 25, for example, of the 72 total documented cases, 38 of them came from people ages 25-49, according to state data. Only six came from people 65 and older.

Though cases have remained steady, Growcock is still not comfortable because “as long as it’s in the community, we have more chances of those variants showing up and the variants affect people differently,” she said.

Growcock hopes vaccinated people will continue to be advocates for the vaccine and help spread the word about how crucial it is that more people get vaccinated. Though estimates of what it takes to reach herd immunity for COVID vary, most experts put the figure at between 70 percent to 90 percent of the population.

She noted that personal testimonials about the importance of getting the shot will be what will help “drive an increase in our vaccination rates.”

While not requiring vaccinations for next school year, Stanly Community College President Dr. John Enamait said the college is encouraging all of its students and staff to get vaccinated. Pfeiffer University President Dr. Scott Bullard has not revealed the university’s vaccination plans.

Since March of last year, Stanly has had a total of 7,756 lab-confirmed cases and 140 people have died. As of Thursday, only three people were hospitalized with COVID.

Stanly’s rolling seven-day average positivity rate is at 5.1 percent, per the state Health and Human Services Department, higher than the state’s current overall average of 4.4 percent.

Statewide, there have been roughly 12.6 million tests conducted resulting in at least 978,556 cases. A total of at 1,031 people were reported hospitalized Wednesday, and 12,738 people have died.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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