Chapel Hill, N.C. — UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill receive its first shipment of 2,925 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday and started vaccinating staff there and at a Hillsborough facility.
Cape Fear Valley Health also received vaccine shipments Tuesday morning at its flagship hospital in Fayetteville and its Hoke Healthcare facility. System officials said they expected a shipment to Bladen County Hospital by the end of the day.
“A vaccine is a great start for us, but we must continue to stay the course continue to wear masks wash your hands practice physical distance,” said Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Hoke Healthcare, who was among the first to get vaccinated after the doses arrived.
Duke University Hospital received its first doses Monday and quickly started vaccinating employees. Officials there said their initial goal is to vaccinate 60 people per day.
Dr. Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, who serves on the front lines of the pandemic at Duke Hospital, said getting the vaccine is personal.
“I have colleagues whose family members have died,” Martinez-Bianchi said. “I have colleagues who have died. So, this affects us all, every one of us. I take the shot today for me, but I also take it mostly for my community – for the people I take care of.”
Dr. David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at UNC Health, said he planned to get vaccinated Tuesday. Even with the vaccine, he said, things won’t be “back to normal” for months, if not longer, and wearing masks will be important even after vaccinations become widespread.
“Don’t take off your mask,” Wohl said. “You’re not safe. … We don’t know that at all. I think it’s really a fool’s game to do predictions when it comes to COVID-19.”
Hoke County is considered a “red zone” in North Carolina, with a critical level of viral spread. Wells said trying to deal with a surge in cases has been challenging for hospital staff.
“I highly encourage communities of color – Black, brown, Latino – to consider taking the vaccine,” she said. “I think that would be a game-changer and will level the playing field.”
National studies have shown that minority communities are more likely to be skeptical about the vaccine. Martinez-Bianchi said she hopes to be a role model for the Latino community to urge people to get vaccinated when it becomes available.
Health care workers will be vaccinated first, followed by senior citizens in nursing homes. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said earlier this week he estimates the vaccine will be available to the general public sometime in the spring.
The Duke University Health System expects to get separate shipments of vaccine to distribute at Duke Regional Hospital and Duke Raleigh Hospital later this week. UNC Rex Hospital in Raleigh and WakeMed also will get vaccine shipments this week.