It’s too bad the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services didn’t have people on staff like Greg Shuping, Haywood’s long-time emergency services director who recently stepped down and his interim replacement Travis Donaldson.
Had that have been the case, the vaccination supply landscape may have looked much different. Indeed, Shuping is now criss-crossing the state to help other counties set up a system that’s working well in Haywood, and Donaldson has taken over the reins in keeping the success story rolling.
A key to Haywood’s success, all agree, is the partnerships that have been established among the emergency management personnel, Haywood Regional Medical Center and the public health workers.
At the Monday commissioner meeting, HRMC Executive Director Greg Caples said the hospital set up a vaccination clinic but quickly realized cooperating with county partners was far more efficient.
Despite its success, Haywood is among other rural counties that will be seeing decreased vaccine doses at least for the next three weeks.
Early on, the state dropped the ball in showing they were getting allocated doses into arms, putting North Carolina near the bottom of the heap when it came to vaccine supply issues. That put the state in jeopardy of getting even fewer doses since they simply weren’t getting the job done.
When the low “doses sent to doses administered rate” was initially reported, The Mountaineer contacted a state DHHS spokesperson asking why more doses couldn’t be sent to counties such as Haywood that had the vaccine delivery system down pat. This would have given Haywood the doses they could deliver while giving time for other counties to work on their processes.
The response we received was so unclear it made a person wonder whether the question was even understood.
The initial slow roll-out put North Carolina in a position to have its statewide dosage number drastically reduced. To counter that, state officials decided the fastest way to increase its vaccine administration rate was to hold massive vaccination clinics in urban centers were 30,000 doses per event can be administered.
Now, instead of following the per capita allocations to ensure vaccine supply would be fairly distributed across the state, rural counties are being back-burnered for the next three weeks as the vaccine is diverted.
The decision has cut the number of doses in Haywood from about 1,000 a week down to 300.
It didn’t matter that Haywood County has developed a plan to administer 200 vaccines an hour and vaccinate 1,440 residents in a single day in an area a fraction the size of big cities. Haywood can rightfully be proud of its impressive achievement, though, and can take some solace in the fact others want to copy us.
The one piece of good news is that second doses for the 7,500 in Haywood who have already been vaccinated are being stockpiled and can be given out as scheduled.
Haywood readers smell a rat and are already calling foul on the changed state process. They are right.
Another state official who is weighing in as a Johnny-come-lately on the vaccine distribution issue is N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is advocating that all vaccines be administered through the three Ps — physicians, pediatricians and pharmacies.
As private businesses that all have full plates and waiting lines for clients and customers they are now serving, it seems unlikely they are equipped to take on a mass vaccination effort in a timely manner.
Mass vaccinations are a task public health departments have long handled and mastered. Let’s hope Folwell’s idea is a nonstarter.
For now, long-time residents who have closely followed how things work in North Carolina are certain to agree, Western North Carolina residents are used to getting the short end of the stick and the latest decision is proof it is happening again.
We might have to accept it, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.