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COLUMN: Vaccination progress made, but still a ways to go

COLUMN: Vaccination progress made, but still a ways to go

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As we continue to grapple with this pandemic and work to improve our vaccination efforts, I toured two vaccine deployment locations in Harnett and Moore Counties last week. These visits are important for me to learn what’s happening here at home so when I go to Washington, I am able to advocate for the needs of our community. I also visited a Cabarrus County vaccination site earlier this month, and will continue keeping in touch with our county officials and local health providers to stay up to date with how to best serve our region.

While at Harnett Central Middle School in Angier, I received an update from Harnett County Health Department Director John Rouse, Emergency Services Director Larry Smith, County Manager Paula Stewart, County Commission Vice-Chair Lew Weatherspoon and County Commission Chairman Brooks Matthews. The day I was there, the Middle School administered 980 doses, getting vaccines in arms at a rate of 200 per hour. This was the first time this mass deployment had been used at the Middle School on a day when students were in virtual learning. It’s amazing to see how successful it was and important for us to know that this method can be used in the future as more doses of vaccine become available.

In Moore County, I toured the Fair Barn which is being used as a vaccination site and received an update from First Health CEO Mickey Foster and First Health CMO Dr. Jennifer Bruno. We discussed the challenges with getting enough doses in areas like Moore County where the population of people aged 65 and older makes up nearly a quarter of the county, much higher than the average statewide. It is critical for our district to protect our seniors and I will work with my federal partners and the Governor to make sure we have adequate supply across our state.

At both vaccine sites, I discussed efforts I have helped with to ensure the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now gives providers 3-week’s notice of how many doses to expect, as opposed to one week’s notice that they were previously providing.

North Carolina has administered 1.5 million doses so far and received $95 million from the latest COVID-19 relief legislation passed in December. In our district, the vaccine statistics look like this:

• Cabarrus County: 22,350 people have been vaccinated.

• Stanly County: 5,500 people have been vaccinated.

• Montgomery County: 3,900 people have been vaccinated.

• Moore County: 11,725 people have been vaccinated.

• Lee County: 8,750 people have been vaccinated.

• Harnett County: 17,200 people have been vaccinated.

• Cumberland County: 35,700 people have been vaccinated.

We still have a lot of work to do, but working together we will get there. Seeing the vaccine rollout in our community firsthand provides valuable feedback on what our region needs. I commend the leaders in our counties for working together across health departments, EMS, school systems and other entities to successfully administer vaccines. Rest assured, I will continue to work with the Governor and at the federal level to ensure you, your family and our communities get the vaccine doses and resources we need.

Richard Hudson represents North Carolina’s 8th District which includes Cabarrus and other counties eastward to Fayetteville.

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