The Wilkes County Health Department’s COVID-19 drive-through vaccination clinics will be moved from the department’s rear parking lot on College Street, Wilkesboro, to Industrial Drive (old airport runway) at Lowe’s Park at River’s Edge next week, said Wilkes Health Director Rachel Willard on Wednesday.
Willard said the clinic’s starting date and time next week will be announced on the Wilkes Health Department website when she learns the arrival day of the next shipment of Moderna vaccine. She said she expects to learn when it will arrive, as well as the amount, late this week.
The health department received and administered enough of the vaccine for 200 doses on Tuesday and isn’t getting more this week. Eighty doses, from the shipment delivered last week, were administered Monday.
Willard said the health department received around 5,000 phone calls Tuesday and nearly that many Monday from people with questions about the clinics or frustrated about arriving to be vaccinated and learning that all of the vaccine available that day had been administered.
She said many of the calls went to voice mail because the health department doesn’t have enough staff or phones to handle that volume.
Willard said she understands the frustration people are experiencing. “We’re also frustrated and we’re truly working hard to serve the people, but it’s a difficult situation with not having enough of the vaccine” to meet so much demand. Not knowing the amount coming in each shipment farther in advance makes it hard to adequately plan and inform the public, she added.
“We’re asking for patience and grace” from the public during the difficult situation, Willard said.
She said that when health department staff screen people for eligibility for vaccinations as they wait in line in vehicles, each is given a card with a number when found eligible. People must have these cards to be vaccinated. When the number of cards given out equals the amount of vaccine available that day, no more cards are given, she said.
Although not surprised by the number of people wanting to be vaccinated, Willard said she anticipated it being spread out more instead of so many this early.
This resulted largely from the addition of people 75 and older “regardless of health status or living situation” to the first phase of vaccinations, announced Dec. 30 by Gov. Roy Cooper. Initially, they weren’t eligible until considerably later.