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County continues to draw big crowds for drive-thru coronavirus vaccinations

SALISBURY — With a new shipment of COVID-19 vaccines ready to administer, volunteers and county staff on Thursday were greeted by the largest crowd yet at West End Plaza.

The Rowan County Health Department last week began administering vaccines for people in phase 1b — people older than 75 — and held the first drive-thru in the large parking lot of West End Plaza on Monday. The first drive-thru event proved demand vastly outpaces the supply being provided to the health department, with 200 doses exhausted shortly after the drive-thru opened at 9:30 a.m.

With 600 Moderna vaccine doses, Thursday’s event again proved demand outpaces supply. Interested people lined up in their cars hours before the 9:30 a.m. start time. The 600 doses were depleted before the 3:30 p.m. end time and the line of cars extended out of the West End Plaza parking lot and down Statesville Boulevard for a half-mile — past Salisbury Fire Department Station No. 4.

Ryan Walker, a sheriff’s deputy directing traffic, said people were already in the parking lot when he arrived at 5:30 a.m. Emily Fink, who directs the nursing program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and was volunteering Thursday, said she vaccinated a person who arrived at 4:30 a.m.

Cars were asked to enter the county-owned West End Plaza at the entrance directly in front of a Food Lion on the other side of Statesville Boulevard. Workers directed cars to snake through the parking lot before forming multiple vaccination lines. After vaccinations were administered, people waited in their cars for about 15 minutes to check for adverse reactions.

Mildred Perrell, who lives in the Woodleaf area, said she was the 127th person vaccinated Thursday after arriving around 5:30 a.m. Perrell said she thought the drive-thru system worked well and that the vaccination “was just a little prick, nothing to be scared of at all.”

Perrell said the coronavirus pandemic has meant that life is different and “more confining.”

“But I’ve tried to obey the rules. So, many people don’t seem to want to do that, but I’ve tried to do that. I thank the lord that I’ve made it through to today,” she said.

Also in the vaccination lines Thursday was Reuben Ward, 88, and his son, who was the designated driver. Ward said he was glad to receive a vaccination.

Fink said Rowan-Cabarrus Community College nursing students are scheduled to help during events next week.

Including Thursday’s vaccinations, nearly 3,000 people have received their first dose in Rowan County. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services says 112 have completed their vaccination series. Across the state, 238,344 people have received their first dose and 44,271 have completed their vaccine series.

Rowan County is receiving weekly shipments of vaccines, and workers at the drive-thru site on Thursday said another event would be planned after the shipment comes in next week.

Meanwhile, Novant Health said in a news release Thursday that it would open six statewide mass vaccination sites in North Carolina to help speed the process. It did not announce where those sites would be but they would cover 14 counties. Novant Health has requested 95,000 doses per week to meet the high demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

“The people of North Carolina deserve a vaccination program that leads the nation in speed, scope and effectiveness of distribution,” said Carl S. Armato, president and chief executive officer of Novant Health. “We appreciate the state’s support and are eager to activate our plan to immediately, and significantly, increase vaccination rates in North Carolina.”

In another announcement on Thursday, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said vaccine providers could expand the age range of people who can be vaccinated to those 65 years and older — 10 years below the current range. Rowan Public Health Director Nina Oliver said the county would adopt those rules for future drive-thru vaccination events.

People with questions about the coronavirus or vaccines, can contact the Rowan County Health Department by emailing questions to COVID-19@rowancountync.gov or calling 980-432-1800. Those who call the phone number can select option No. 1 for vaccine information.

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