Albemarle Regional Health Services says registrations for its new COVID vaccine distribution system that began this week have been “robust” so far.
ARHS spokeswoman Amy Underhill didn’t say in an email how many residents in the regional health department’s eight counties have registered at ARHS’ website to receive the vaccine. However, the system, which was announced late Monday, has allowed ARHS to better target residents 75 and older for vaccinations, she said.
“This has given us great access to target those priority groups,” Underhill said.
Persons 75 and older, along with health care workers and medical first responders, are the groups ARHS is currently targeting to receive their first dose of the vaccine. Health officials have said two doses of the same vaccine authorized for emergency use — Pfizer and Moderna — are required for the vaccinations to be 95% effective against COVID-19.
The registration system replaces the first-come, first-serve distribution method ARHS used at eight regional clinics last week to vaccinate more than 8,000 residents. That method spurred long lines and allowed others outside of the current target groups to get first doses of the vaccine.
Underhill indicated requiring target groups to register for vaccinations will allow more efficient use of ARHS’ limited supply of vaccine.
“The registration system will allow us to utilize our internal and external resources to plan for administering the vaccine and to utilize our vaccine allotments to their fullest extent,” she said.
Under the new system, residents in the current target group are asked to visit ARHS website and fill out a registration form at https://www.arhs-nc.org/information/COVID-19/vaccines/. To register, they have to click on the survey link for their county and provide their name and contact information. A member of the health department staff will then call them to set up an appointment.
Those registered will be given a specific date and time to show up for their vaccination, Underhill said. ARHS plans to administer the vaccinations at drive-thru clinics like those it operated last week. However, only those who pre-registered can get a COVID vaccination; others showing up for the clinics will be turned away, Underhill said. The first clinics under the new system are scheduled for Jan. 19-22.
ARHS plans to verify those who register for a vaccination are 75 or older, Underhill said. The agency has also said anyone trying to register for a vaccine in more than one county will have their name removed from the registration list.
ARHS said it expects to receive 2,800 doses of the vaccine for next week’s clinics, and distribution will be divided among the agency’s eight health departments the following way: Pasquotank County will get 600 doses; Currituck County will get 500 doses; Hertford County 400 doses; Bertie, Chowan and Perquimans counties will get 300 doses each; and Gates and Camden counties will get 200 each.
ARHS said the survey links for each county on its website will be disabled once registrations have reached that county’s vaccine allotment.
Underhill said the amount of vaccine ARHS receives will vary from week to week. She said the estimated amount ARHS expects to get next week is “a little on the lower end.”
Asked if the Trump administration’s changes to vaccine distribution, announced Tuesday, will affect how ARHS is currently scheduling vaccinations, Underhill said it will not.
“It will not change how we give the vaccine,” she said. “Someone has to make sure there is allocation for second doses.”
ARHS has said clinics administering the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be scheduled the last week of January and the first week of February. The agency said it will announce specific dates and times soon.
Several counties in ARHS’ service territory have set up methods to help register their citizens 75 and older for the vaccine clinics. Currituck County residents in that age group, for example, can call 252-232-2115 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and provide their name and contact information. Health department staff will then call them to set up an appointment.
The Chowan County Senior Center is advising residents 75 and older who want a vaccine to come in and they’ll help them register for the upcoming clinics. Senior center staff will also print out the registration form and help seniors fill it out.