Data shows Mecklenburg County lags behind in vaccinations. Here’s why

Data shows Mecklenburg County lags behind in vaccinations. Here’s why

Brianna Crane/ Axios Charlotte

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Four months into the vaccine rollout, Mecklenburg County is behind the state’s other large counties in distributing vaccines. But county officials say the numbers don’t tell the full story.

What’s happening: Because Mecklenburg County borders South Carolina and a number of rural counties, residents from outside of the county are coming here for vaccines. And those vaccinations don’t count toward Mecklenburg vaccinations, even though they happened here.

  • Large scale vaccination clinics like those at Spectrum Center and Bank of America Stadium have also attracted non-residents, county officials say.
  • The county reports having large numbers of workers who aren’t residents. Many of them are vaccinated here but reported as being vaccinated in their home county/state.

“There are a lot of people who come into Mecklenburg County to work everyday,” public health director Gibbie Harris said during an April 8 briefing. “We want them vaccinated as well because they’re a potential exposure just like the folks who live here.”

Dr. Katie Passaretti of Atrium Health said another reason for the county’s lag in numbers stems from “higher rates of vaccine hesitancy” in some populations within Mecklenburg County. 

  • As supply continues to ramp up in Mecklenburg County and in the rest of North Carolina, working to overcome vaccine hesitancy will become the biggest focus for health care providers, she told reporters April 8.

Why it matters: The pandemic’s end hinges on widespread vaccination. As North Carolina’s largest county, Mecklenburg plays a big role in stopping the outbreak.

  • Since the vaccine became available, demand has outpaced supply in most areas, but that could change soon. [Go deeper]
  • “Pretty soon we’re going to be pushing, encouraging people to get it because we do know at some point we will hit that peak of supply exceeding demand,” Gov. Cooper said during an April 6 briefing.

By the numbers: Mecklenburg County has partially vaccinated 20.4% of its total population and fully vaccinated 14.9%, the latest state data show. That’s 221,628 and 162,122 people, respectively. Here’s how that compares to other large counties:

  • Wake: 29.4% partially (320,306), 19.9% fully (213,081)
  • Guilford: 28.5% partially (152,748), 19.5% fully (100,822)
  • Forsyth: 25.9% partially (97,507), 19.7% fully (73,984)
  • Cumberland: 16.4% partially (54,695), 13.1% fully (42,399)

Overall, 31.1% of the state’s total population is partially vaccinated and 21.5% is fully vaccinated.

What they say: “In the beginning when vaccine was really pretty scarce, we did see a lot of people coming from other communities just because we had vaccination clinics here,” Harris said. “That is changing some and starting to shift. So we’re starting to see our percentages slowly start to catch up with other parts of the state who did not have some of those issues to deal with as much.”

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