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Stuck on a Mecklenburg vaccine waitlist? Some turn to openings in nearby counties

Hannah Smoot
·3 min read

At one point in February, there were more than 7,000 people on the Mecklenburg County COVID-19 vaccine waitlist.

Most were educators — newly eligible to get the vaccine. Meanwhile, some other counties in the Charlotte region have gone through their entire waitlist and emerged with hundreds of COVID-19 vaccines still available.

That was the case this week in Alexander County, about an hour north of Charlotte.

Local leaders posted on the Alexander County Twitter page on Tuesday that the health department had completed its waiting list, and still had about 200 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine available for anyone in Groups 1 or 2. That includes health care workers, residents and staff at long-term care facilities and anyone age 65 and up.

County health departments are encouraging North Carolinians to get their COVID-19 vaccine in their county of residence. But the state has instructed county health departments to vaccinate people from other counties if they request an appointment.

Mecklenburg opened up a new slate of appointments this week, running from March 10 through March 31. But appointments go quickly, leaving some people to turn outside of the county.

In Catawba County, home to Hickory and a neighbor of Alexander County, 88% of doses administered by Catawba County Public Health have gone to Catawba residents, spokeswoman Emily Killian said.

Anyone eligible for the coronavirus vaccine can register for an appointment with Catawba County online.

The health department is working with Catawba County employers to coordinate group scheduling for eligible front-line workers. More information on getting an appointment for Group 3 patients is available on the business portal of the COVID-19 county’s website.

Appointments for COVID-19 shots run out quickly in Mecklenburg, meaning some residents may turn to neighboring counties for vaccines.
Appointments for COVID-19 shots run out quickly in Mecklenburg, meaning some residents may turn to neighboring counties for vaccines.

‘They are willing to travel’ for vaccines

Across the county line from Mecklenburg, Gaston has seen residents from other counties come there for vaccines too.

“We’ve certainly seen folks come to get their vaccine here from other places across the state,” county spokesman Adam Gaub said. “We haven’t turned anyone in a qualifying group away, but we’ve certainly encouraged folks to get their vaccine from providers within their own county whenever possible.”

Gaston has had residents from all of the surrounding counties at its vaccine clinics, including from Mecklenburg, Gaub added.

“Though we’ve tried to focus on Gaston County residents specifically, people that are eager to get their vaccine have shown they are willing to travel to get it,” he said.

Some North Carolinians cross county lines for COVID-19 vaccines, turning to neighboring counties, like Gaston County, for the shots.
Some North Carolinians cross county lines for COVID-19 vaccines, turning to neighboring counties, like Gaston County, for the shots.

Anyone looking for a vaccine in Gaston County can pre-register for vaccine clinics online. Appointments are scheduled as new slots open up, Gaub said.

The county hosts a weekly vaccine clinic on Fridays at Eastridge Mall parking lot.

Other vaccines near Mecklenburg

Union County still had some open appointments as of Monday, county spokeswoman Liz Cooper told the Observer. Anyone eligible for appointments can schedule a slot by calling 704-292-2550 or filling out the online registration form.

Cabarrus County, too, had open appointment slots earlier this week. Those slots are now filled, according to the county’s online tool. Anyone eligible for the shots can schedule Cabarrus County appointments as they become available online.

And as of Thursday morning, Iredell County still had open appointments for a March 8 clinic.

Iredell has seen a decrease in the number of people requesting vaccine appointments lately, spokeswoman Megan Redford said.

But the county expects that number to go up now that people in Group 3 are eligible for shots.

Group 3 includes front-line essential workers like teachers, law enforcement and restaurant workers.