Transcript: Jan. 28, 2021 COVID-19 UPDATE

 While the pandemic rages across our country, across our state, and though the number of cases , hospitalizations, and positive test rates continue to be high, at least in Brunswick County, with an estimated population of 148, 760, there have been 87 deaths and 6,056 total cases.  One death is too many, but deaths and cases could be much higher if not for the public health measures that have been promoted and followed by our citizens.

We wear facial covering, we physical distance, avoid crowds, only essential travel and outings, and with vaccinations being given, we will be able to immunize ourselves out of this pandemic. However, the lack of ease and efficiency of obtaining a vaccine has been frustrating, creating a cascade of emotions that at times have been frantic and fearful.  The feeling of fear is one of the strongest emotions of all and the most severe kind of fear, is the fear of the unknown. Am I eligible for a vaccine? How can I obtain an immunization? Where will I need to go? How long will I have to wait before I receive a potentially life-saving immunization?  When will I have immunity?  When can I stop wearing a facial covering/mask?

To answer basic questions, if you are a health care worker, are working or living in a long term care facility, or if you are age 65 and older, you are eligible for the vaccine right now.  These are groups one and group two. There are five groups. Group three-front line essential workers, group four- adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk for severe illness ages 16—64.  Group five is everyone else who wants a vaccine. As for immunity, for Moderna vaccine, there is roughly eighty per cent immunity by day fourteen.  There is a second immunization on day 29, i.e. four weeks from the first vaccination. Fourteen days after the second immunization, which is a booster shot for our immune system, there is roughly a 95% efficacy in preventing the individual from contracting COVID-19.

The same is true for the Pfizer vaccine, except one week earlier as this second vaccine is administered 21 days after the first dose.

Even after we are fully immunized, we still need to practice public health mitigation measures, in particular facial covering because not everyone would have been immunized and there are still 5 % of those immunized that the vaccine did not provide an immune response. We not only want to decrease the number of deaths but also the number of cases for there are individuals who have developed chronic conditions from COVID-19 infection.

This is not a time to criticize, but to be creative and informative. I recommended immunizing readily known and easily available populations and opening up the Southport Community Building as a vaccination site and staff it in part with retired nurses, doctors, and other volunteers. I believe this has helped to motivate a more robust vaccine response and I appreciate the cooperative efforts of Novant Health Brunswick Medical Center, Dosher Memorial Hospital, and the Brunswick County Health Department, in immunizing as many citizens as possible. I believe if they had a larger vaccine supply, they have the capability to vaccinate more people.

Along with the public sector, once the private sector such as pharmacies-Walgreens and CVS—have supplies of vaccine, they have systems in place for immunizations as they have for influenza and other vaccines. Thousands have received their flu shot from their pharmacy over the years and this should help diminish the frustration over attempting to receive a vaccine.

There also is the Johnson and Johnson immunization which should become available under EUA, Emergency Use Authorization, next month. It will be a one shot only required vaccine.

What is the reality for the last week in January?  Vaccine supply is limited.  This must be corrected on a federal level with a “war time” effort on manufacturing, distribution and vaccination sites.

For North Carolina—go to “Find your spot to take your shot”.  This is the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 site. It tells you that COVID-19 vaccinations are now available to people 65 and older and to health care workers.  “Because vaccine supplies are still limited, you may have to wait. Here is how to take your shot against COVID-19.”

The 100 counties in North Carolina are listed.  I selected Brunswick. I then clicked on the website “Brunswick County Health Services”. They also gave a phone number –910-253-2339 and an email address:  [email protected]. From the website, click on

From there, I found “MyChart” Novant Health. From here I typed in the zip code and clicked on “search.”  I then clicked on COVID-19 Vaccination. The next prompt was COVID-19 1st dose. I clicked on this and then appeared Monday, March 29, 2021, Brunswick Community College, Odell Williamson Auditorium.  The time 2:00 PM was available. This is how to register in Brunswick County. I am assuming that as supplies increase, appointments will be moved up the list to receive your vaccination sooner and this is just a way to get everyone who is eligible and wants a vaccine registered.

Is March 29th ideal? No. But I believe being on the list moves each citizen, one step closer.

The next option is to click on other surrounding counties and call to see their availability. Robeson County Health Department in Lumberton has vaccines available 910-671-3216 and some of our citizens have been there.  Cumberland County Health Department in Fayetteville, had a mass immunization event on Saturday, January 23rd.  The number –910-443-3770. There is no jurisdiction on where you receive your vaccine. It is unfortunate to have to do so, but look at other surrounding counties for available vaccine. There also is the COVID-19 line to call—1-877-490-6642 through NCDHHS and this line is open from 8 AM to 8 PM.

So what is encouraging? An update from Department of Health and Human Services:  95% of first doses of vaccines that North Carolina received, have been administered.  In total, 812,582 doses have been given. There were 284,246 vaccines administered the week of January 18th.  As of December 13, 2020, the number of vaccines given—zero. The vaccination program began December 14th and each week more vaccines have been administered than the week before.

Is this adequate? No.  But it is a start.  The problem is that North Carolina receives 120,000 vaccine doses per week from the Federal Government.  Supply does not meet demand.

The allocation process is being revised so that there is going to be a guaranteed baseline supply of vaccine from the state for the next three week so counties will know how to prepare and respond to demand for vaccinations. It is my belief that immunizations will become more available over time.

I have personally asked that Southport receive the vaccinations it needs. If we continue public health mitigation measures, the majority of you have been safe and will continue to be safe by doing so, until a larger supply of vaccine is available.

It is easier to sign up on the Brunswick County Website. Being registered is an important first step. There are other county health department options as I have delineated above. Another vaccine will be available next month. The private sector, local pharmacies, should soon be involved in immunizing the general public.

In Southport, we are following the Governor’s Executive Order and are under a local state of emergency.  By not allowing events in our city facilities, it prevents mass gatherings and the potential spread of COVID-19, another way to protect our city and citizens.

If you are a veteran, the VA Clinic has a supply of COVID-19 immunizations. The National Football League has urged teams to open stadiums as vaccination centers. Every vaccination center in Brunswick County will increase immunizations as supplies increase.  And hopefully, all over our state and all over the nation, there will be more vaccine and more venues to obtain the COVID-19 immunization.

I am hopeful. I ask for patience, I ask for perseverance, I ask for public health mitigation measures to continue and I ask for prayer for the 419, 225 who have died from the coronavirus in our country and prayers for the family and friends they leave behind. F

or those in Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach and Southport, who were fortunate to have known Catholic priest, Father Trent Watts, he was pastor at Sacred Heart in Southport, Wilmington native, and was current pastor at St. Therese’s at Wrightsville Beach, died from COVID-19 after being at NHRMC for many weeks. A tremendous spiritual loss and friend to so many in our communities.

And there recently was the story—“S.C. Mom of 10 dies from COVID a Week After Undergoing Emergency C-Section to Deliver Her Baby.” There is a face behind each statistic.

We must do everything we can to end this pandemic.

As your Mayor, as a doctor, as a public health advocate, I assure you that you are not alone in this endeavor and the number of citizens that have been vaccinated for COVID-19 in Brunswick County—5.706 first doses given—will increase each week.

There is concern that there has been mutation of the coronavirus and that the variants, found in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and now in the United States,  are more efficiently transmissible than the original virus and that it can be more virulent and less responsive to antibody treatment. The U.K variant called B.1.1.7. , has been detected in North Carolina. There is data to suggest that this variant may be more contagious. The vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna, are confident their vaccines are effective against these new variants.  Scientists are evaluating this and will continue to give us the answers we need to continue to formulate a response.

Until that time, remember, Southport is resolute, resilient and we will recover from this pandemic.

Stay Safe, Stay Well, and Stay Southport Strong