CHARLOTTE – When the COVID-19 vaccine first became available to the public, thousands of people rolled up their sleeves at Novant Health mass vaccination sites. Now, with greater supply of the vaccine and more flexibility, the effort to curb the pandemic is shifting to primary adult and pediatric care clinics.
Today, more than 60 clinics are administering vaccines to their patients with another 45 clinics to be added over the coming weeks, said John Howard, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Novant Health Physician Network.
“Our end goal is to have the COVID-19 vaccine available in most, if not all, of our primary care adult and pediatric clinics by the end of the year,” Howard said. “This shift will not only ensure we’re set up to efficiently distribute booster shots, if needed, but it will help us reach those who are hesitant or not eager to get the vaccine. By bringing vaccine into the medical home, where it’s administered by a trusted physician, when and where it’s convenient for someone, I believe we’ll reach more of our unvaccinated population.”
Established patients can call their primary care clinic to schedule an appointment at that clinic if it is offering the vaccine, or at the nearest Novant Health vaccination site.
Vaccine hesitancy persists
Bringing the vaccine into clinics, where it’s administered by a trusted physician, is a new opportunity to reach unvaccinated people. About half of North Carolinians have yet to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services.
Polls also show about a third of Americans have no immediate plans to get the vaccine, said Dr. David Priest, Novant Health’s chief safety, quality, and epidemiology officer. People who have not yet been vaccinated may be more willing to do so when visiting their health care provider, whom they know and trust.
“It’s that personal touch that really makes a difference, and I’ve seen that in my own practice,” Priest said. “People who are adamantly opposed to vaccination have come in, and once I address their concerns, they’re willing to get it. There’s so much misinformation that’s been moved around the internet. Some patients just throw up their hands and say, ‘I don’t know what to believe.’ But that one-on-one conversation makes a world of difference.”
Billions of people worldwide have been vaccinated against COVID-19, so there has been ample time to gauge the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness beyond what the clinical trials and science have shown, Priest added. And more people are expected to become eligible in the coming months.
While people 12 and up can safely receive the Pfizer vaccine, drugmakers say the coronavirus vaccines may be available in the fall for U.S. children as young as 6 months. Pfizer and Moderna are testing their vaccines in children under 12 years of age and are expected to have results for children ages 5 through 11 by September.
Fewer hours at mass vaccination sites
As COVID-19 vaccine efforts shift to clinics, hours will be reduced at four mass vaccination sites. The complete schedule for each location follows:
- Novant Health Medical Group – East Mecklenburg (6070 E. Independence Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28212) is open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Novant Health Medical Group – Hanes (196 Hanes Mall Circle, Winston-Salem, NC 27103) is open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Novant Health Medical Group – Huntersville (17220 Northcross Drive, Suite 110, Huntersville, NC 28078) is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Novant Health Medical Group – Salisbury (J.F. Hurley YMCA at 828 Jake Alexander Blvd., West Salisbury, NC 28147) is open Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
You do not have to be a Novant Health patient to make an appointment or walk-in to a vaccination site. While walk-ins are accepted, it’s recommended that people schedule an appointment.