Lawmakers Press Cooper Admin for Answers on Slow Vaccine Rollout
Latest data ranks NC 48th in nation in percentage of doses administered
Politico Health: Feds may base future vaccine allocations on how quickly states are administering the doses they have
Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers today pressed the Cooper Administration for answers on North Carolina’s near-last-in-the-nation ranking on vaccine distribution. The hearing took place amid reports from Politico Health that future vaccine allocations from the federal government may be based on states’ performance thus far in getting vaccines into arms.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, North Carolina has used just 25.8% of the doses it has received from the federal government, which ranks 48th in the country.
During the hearing, lawmakers keyed in on the administration’s decision to replicate the county-centric model that failed to deliver hurricane relief efficiently.
In 2019, months before the pandemic began, the Cooper Administration’s Director of Emergency Management said publicly, “We have learned from experience that many local governments lack the staff expertise and capacity to administer [disaster relief].”
Yet the administration did not apply that lesson to its vaccine distribution plan, which relies almost entirely on counties.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen told lawmakers that some counties are performing well while others are lagging behind, and that the proper time to critique crisis management is not during the crisis.
Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), who chaired today’s hearing, said, “The administration had ten months to draft and refine a plan to distribute a vaccine that everybody in the world knew was in development, but they didn’t even effectively plan for something as simple as what to do when too many people call asking to schedule their vaccination. The status quo is completely unacceptable, and the failure of the county-centric model was known before planning even began.”
Sen. Jim Perry (R-Lenoir) said, “The executive branch is now in the unfortunate position of having to build the plane while flying it, which is not a recipe for success. They must act with urgency to get shots into people’s arms. ‘Mobilizing’ a couple dozen National Guardsmen is clearly not solving the issue.”
Secretary Cohen also discussed who is prioritized for vaccination and expressed frustration at changing federal guidelines on the subject. But the ultimate arbiter of determining who is prioritized and when is Secretary Cohen herself.
Last month, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) urged Secretary Cohen to simplify the prioritization plan to place more emphasis on age. At the time, Sec. Cohen demurred, citing CDC guidance. But during today’s hearing, she said the state may in fact move toward focusing more on age, depending on whether the CDC changes it guidance.
Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett) said, “I support our health departments and want them to succeed. We need one person in charge of making decisions and sticking with them. This isn’t up to the federal government, and counties aren’t equipped to handle the task. The state executive branch needs to take the reins, make tough calls, and move forward.”