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COVID-19NC: Vaccines Arrive As Cases Soar

Vaccinations are rolling out across Western North Carolina. Mission Health is the latest to start  administering the COVID vaccine to at risk health care workers.  The system received just under 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.  Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville started giving the shots on Tuesday (12/15)and  Cherokee Indian Hospital – on Wednesday.   The shots arrived as the state continued to see record case numbers and hospitalizations. BPR’s Helen Chickering checks in on the metricsand vaccines with North Carolina withNC Health News editor Rose Hoban.

HC: So I think I have more of a comment than an opening question. Wow. Friday was another record-breaking day more than 8,000 new cases. So is this the Thanksgiving fallout?

RH: Could be, I mean, there were a lot of people that tested and then it was 10 and a half percent of them were positive. Maybe it's coming out of Thanksgiving. Maybe it's a lot of people who are pre-testing to go off to Christmas, but 8,400 people positive in one day that is extraordinary.

HC: Hospitalizations are up there too. Now hovering just under 3,000. And of course, the concern about staffing capacity now, audible among hospitals, that haven't been as forthcoming about that concern,

RH: Yes. Last week we wrote something about how hospitals are raising the alarm and they're really raising the alarm. Now, most of them are saying, “yeah it's a big deal”. There is one little piece of positivity. And that is that theKaiser Family Foundationhas been doing a tracking poll of people. And compared to May now 70% of people say they wear a mask. Every time they leave a home up 21 percentage points since May. 

HC: And vaccines here, they are all over the state. We saw the first shots here in Western North Carolina this week as expected, there are some hiccups.

RH:  The logistics on the ground are going to be challenging. And there are multiple different vaccines with multiple different timelines. The Pfizer vaccine, you have to get your second shot within 21 days, the Moderna vaccine, you get your second shot in 28 days. You know, who knows what the Astra Zeneca second shot is going to be like. Also, as a reminder, a lot of vaccines require more than one dose. All those childhood vaccines, they all require more than one dose. You, we just don't remember them because we were children when we got them.

HC: You know, from the public's perspective. And, and I'm thinking of myself, I think we keep thinking, this is like the flu vaccine and forget that this is a brand new virus. Yeah,

RH: This is, this is novel. We've stopped using novel coronavirus, but it is novel. We do not have any type of immunity to this type of virus that we're walking around with  The only thing that wasn't starting from scratch was developing these vaccines because these vaccine makers have been working on vaccine technology for years and they were enabled to pivot and develop the vaccines pretty quickly because they had the groundwork laid that.  One of the biggest problems is that researchers spend as much time on their computers, writing grants to get money, to do the vaccine research. And with COVID this time, they didn't need to do that because the money was there. So when people say, how did it happen so quickly? It happened so quickly because the money was there. The foundation had been laid and people cooperated. So we got vaccines really quickly. 

HC: There’s been concern about side effects.

With vaccines there are going to be side effects and people need to remember, it's your body mounting a defense and it's mounting a defense to something that's not going to kill you. But it's going to remember when the thing that is going to kill you comes to visit.

About Rose Hoban:

Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News,as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992 but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees in public health policy and journalism. She's reported on science, health policy and research in NC since 2005. Contact: editor at northcarolinahealthnews.org

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.