New Hanover County Commissioners vaccinated ahead of schedule

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COVID-19 Vaccine (Photo: Pexels)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman has confirmed that the board members have been vaccinated but seemed to have skipped the line.

A New Hanover County Spokesperson says all five commissioners were vaccinated on January 13 because additional vaccines came available and needed to be used.

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When asked why the commissioners were notified instead of those currently eligible, the county provided the following explanation.

“Oftentimes, Public Health is able to get an extra dose from a vial (for instance, a 10-dose vial of Moderna often – but not always – produces 11 doses). So when that happens, or when a vial is opened but not all doses are used, it is important that the remaining doses be used within a few hours. The county opens vaccine appointments based on the standard doses received – but there are times when a small number of additional doses may be remaining. We also have times where we have no-shows for scheduled appointments and, prior to moving to the state’s new Group 2, we also set aside doses for healthcare walkups and there were times when those weren’t always fully taken (for reference, these healthcare workers weren’t required to make an appointment early on, but we do require that now, as of January 19). So if additional doses remain (and when that happens, it is typically a very small number), Public Health does not let a single dose go to waste and works to ensure any extra doses are given to people who are eligible and, in some cases depending on the situation, provides them to people who are willing and readily available. This process is directly in line with the guidance provided by NCDHHS. And as such, when doses were available, the vaccine was made available to the Commissioners as a matter of priority to help maximize continuity of government.”

 

Rob Zapple and Bill Rivenbark are the only two commissioners that would fall into the Group 1 category after guidelines were changed on January 14 to include those who are 65 and up in Group 1.

Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, Jonathan Barfield, and Deb Hays are not eligible until Group 3 is permitted to receive the vaccine, which has not yet been announced.

Olson-Boseman shared the following statement.

“Commissioners are leaders in this community, elected by our constituents to govern New Hanover County and we were each vaccinated in our public duty capacity and not as private citizens. I certainly want to keep each person on the board as safe as possible, as they are asked to meet in person as a group and go out in the community to do the job the people elected us to do. The county is the lead entity in local vaccination efforts and it’s imperative that our board is healthy so we can make decisions and continue governing to keep our entire community healthy and safe. Those crucial decisions and actions are made as a full board, and not as individuals, so I believe it’s important for the full board, and not just a subset of the board, to be healthy and well. When budget amendments are needed to pay for our COVID-19 response or for vaccination efforts across the community, that is a full board decision. Or when actions are taken to ensure vaccines reach historically marginalized communities or vaccines are transferred to local partners, those are done under the oversight of the full board. Those decisions are incredibly important, and they require our full board to be involved. So when the vaccine was offered to us, we each were willing and eager to be vaccinated.”

WWAY has reached out to the other commissioners for a statement but has not yet heard back.

The county continues to ask residents to be patient as vaccine rollout continues.

“We ask the community to continue to be patient and persistent in getting a vaccine. Public Health is working hard to ensure that everyone who wants and needs a vaccine can get one, and we will continue to do that in the months to come. The demand is high and supply is low, and Public Health relies on supply from the state each week to then make our plan for vaccination appointments each week. We will continue those efforts, which so far have allowed us to vaccinate more than 10,000 people in our community. We are also working with our healthcare partners in this effort as well as many community partners to reach even more people through small outreach sites for our minority community. In total, more than 20,000 people in New Hanover County have received the first dose of the vaccine in this first month.”