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Although county lowers eligible age to 65, vaccine appointments are on hold

All individuals 65 and older are now eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccination in Henderson County, although the county does not currently enough vaccines on hand to cover the expanded eligibility group.

"We're matching the state guidelines," Health Department spokesman Andrew Mundheck said Thursday afternoon. "I think the governor or secretary is having a press conference right now and they put it on their website earlier today."

Like health departments and clinics across the state, Henderson County has a much greater demand for vaccines than the current supply, even before the state Department of Health and Human services added the over-65 cohort.

"We are booked for all the vaccinations that we have on hand,"  Mundheck said. About a thousand shots were in the most recent distribution. The allocation comes once a week and the department doesn't know how many doses it will receive.

"We're not going to schedule more appointments than the vaccinations we have on hand," he said. If the call center reserved more shot appointments than the number of shots, "then we'd have to call people and cancel their appointment. We want to make sure we have a vaccination to give."

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced new priority groupings that includes all adults 65 over in the current vaccination group – now labeled Group 2 instead of Phase 1b, Group 1.

"With today’s announcement," the NC DHHS said, "vaccine providers who are ready may vaccinate adults 65 years and older and health care workers, which will be followed by frontline essential workers, then adults with high risk of exposure and increased risk of serious illness, then everyone.

All Henderson County vaccine providers – including Pardee UNC Health Care, AdventHealth Hendersonville, Blue Ridge Health and the Health Department – will immediately shift to vaccination models that allow for the expanded priority group. All public health partners had been awaiting a final decision about priority group changes today from NCDHHS.

The revised group of all individuals 65 and older is estimated to be more than 30,000 people in Henderson County, roughly a quarter of the population, at a time when vaccine supply remains very limited. 

“We ask for the public’s patience since greater numbers of individuals will be pursuing a very limited amount of vaccine,” Health Director Steve Smith said. “We are all committed to providing vaccinations as quickly as possible based on vaccine supply.” 

The Group 2 expansion comes amid reports showing that North Carolina has administered only a quarter of the doses it has on hand — one of the slowest roll-outs in the country.

Legislators grilled the Cooper administration over its slow handling of vaccine distribution during a General Assembly oversight committee on Tuesday. Dr. Mandy Cohen, the DHHS secretary, rebuffed the questioners, saying now is not the time to criticize crisis management. 

As vaccine doses remain on ice, North Carolina is facing a renewed surge of the virus. Nearly 4,000 people are in the hospital with COVID, near an all-time high, and the state has reported record high numbers of new cases over the past few weeks.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services reports 257,165 doses of the vaccine have been administered as of Monday, according to data presented to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Medicaid and N.C. Health Choice. That represents under 28% of the more than 830,000 doses North Carolina has received — placing the state at No. 43 nationally, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Vaccine Clinic Options

Health Department clinic held at East Henderson High: Call 828-585-4700 as supply is available. All available vaccine appointments have been booked for supply on hand. Scheduling will not resume until next week once more doses are received. Please check the Health Department’s website at for updates.

Pardee UNC Health Care COVID clinic held at Blue Ridge Community College: Call 828-694-8222/ 694-VACC or go online

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Carolina Public Press contributed to this report.