GREENSBORO — Guilford County health officials say they are meeting demand for COVID-19 vaccines as the state expands eligibility to more groups.
Dr. Iulia Vann, director of the Guilford County Department of Public Health, said Wednesday at a news conference that "we are still on track" to open vaccinations on April 7 to the second phase of Group Four, which includes additional essential workers, people who live in congregate settings like group homes and students who are living in university housing.
Since March 17, the state has been vaccinating some essential workers, people age 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions, people experiencing homelessness, and incarcerated people who have not been vaccinated.
Wednesday's update from state health officials showed that Guilford County has had a total of 42,025 cases (782 cases per 10,000 residents) and 600 deaths. That's an increase of 43 cases since Tuesday's report and eight new deaths.
Don Campbell, the county's Emergency Management Division director, said at the virtual news conference that the county health department has administered 70,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
And when other providers are added to the total, he said, 124,000, or 23.1% of the county population, have had at least their first dose of the vaccine. Some 60,000 of those people have been fully vaccinated.
This week the county opened 7,320 appointments and some are still available at www.healthyguilford.com for Thursday and Saturday.
In addition, FEMA, which is supporting a mass vaccination site at Four Seasons Town Centre, has administered 40,000 initial doses since opening two weeks ago and is offering open appointments for this weekend by calling 888-675-4567, Campbell said.
Campbell said that the county is working with larger employers with more than 250 workers to offer vaccines either through onsite company clinics or at county sites.
Demand is high and supply is low, so vaccination appointments often fill up quickly. Officials recommend to check back often.
When the next phase of eligibility opens on April 7, Campbell said, the county is working to be sure it has evening and weekend appointments available.
Campbell and Vann both cautioned that people should remain vigilant, wearing masks, practicing social distancing and washing their hands.
"It is not the time to take a break from the things that we know that work," Campbell said.
Some counties around the state are turning down allocations of vaccine, Campbell said, but as far as he knows, no large provider in Guilford County has turned away doses.
In fact, he said, the county has received more doses if other counties have turned them down for lack of interest.
"We have more and more providers coming online," he said. And it's becoming easier to get an appointment, Campbell said. No longer are appointments disappearing in 30 minutes like "rock concert tickets," he said.
Still, "we have no doubt that we'll fill up those appointments this week."
Some sites offer testing on an almost daily basis. Others offer testing on a temporary basis. Check back for updated clinic sites.
Vann responded to one question about whether the county is seeing requests for the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
She said the county is seeing more interest in the vaccine, which doesn't require a second dose. It's more convenient for many people and health officials can use it in more flexible settings because it doesn't have the same extreme refrigeration requirements that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require.
"All three vaccines are safe and efficient and they are saving lives and they are saving us from getting extremely sick and dying," she said.
Some people question the efficacy of one vaccine over another, she said, but "it's important to share the message that the right vaccine for you is the one that is available."
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.