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N.C. National Guard headed to Forsyth to help with COVID vaccination efforts

N.C. National Guard headed to Forsyth to help with COVID vaccination efforts


Forsyth County is among the first two North Carolina communities getting COVID-19 vaccine assistance from state National Guard personnel.

Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper announced the deployment of 50 National Guard members to accelerate the administration of doses at local sites.

Also participating in the pilot program is Albemarle Regional Health Services, which serves eight counties in Northeast North Carolina.

Shontell Robinson, deputy Forsyth manager, said she wasn't sure why Forsyth was chosen outside "we asked for state staffing assistance."

Beginning Monday, 12 National Guard members, who will be split into two six-person teams, will be working in Forsyth, said Joshua Swift, the county's health director.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's health director, told the Associated Press that some National Guard personnel will serve as vaccinators while others will assist local health departments with checking people into sites and ensuring they remain masked and physically distant from one another.

Swift said he's been told two National Guard members per team will be administering vaccine "because they have a medical background."

"Two (team) members will be more data entry, and the other two would be support staff, which means they could do a variety of jobs to help us," Swift said.

He said the first deployment of the National Guard teams could last up to 31 days.

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Cooper said Tuesday that the National Guard deployment is meant to play a role in preventing community spread of the coronavirus by "helping local hospitals and health departments to support their vaccine efforts."

"Getting the vaccine out quickly is the most urgent priority right now, and we will use everything and everyone needed to get the job done."

Mike Sprayberry, director of N.C. Emergency Management, said Friday the National Guard initiative will be expanded in coming weeks.

"Those units are currently being assembled and deployed based on the needs of our county partners," Sprayberry said.

Cohen attributed the sluggishness behind the vaccination rollout to staffing shortages, lack of familiarity with the state’s technological systems, and logistical hurdles of working with dozens of hospitals and 100 different counties throughout the state.

DHHS has notified vaccine providers that future allocations will be based on how quickly they are able to get their supply to eligible recipients.

"If an entity is not using their vaccine supply quickly enough, or (not) keeping the state database updated on their progress, that will impact how much they are allocated going forward," DHHS said.

A state legislative oversight committee of Medicaid and N.C. Health Choice meets Tuesday, the day before the ceremonial opening of the 2021 legislative session.

The committee will address vaccine distribution issues at the meeting.

"The House and Senate co-chairs have decided to add vaccine distribution and prioritization to the agenda," said Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth.

"There are a number of questions about vaccine distribution planning and execution, and we hope that some oversight will result in improvements and advance everyone’s shared goal of vaccinating all who want it as soon as possible.”



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