Asheville, NC, July 21, 2021 – A new mobile community vaccine center will make it easier and more convenient for people in Western North Carolina (WNC) to protect themselves and the community from COVID-19 as the region experiences increasing cases from the more contagious Delta variant that is spreading across the state. To identify mobile vaccination sites, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is collaborating with the WNC Vaccine Acceleration Consortium, a group of over 80 regional vaccine providers that includes the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC), local health departments, hospitals, and emergency management offices. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has contracted for the mobile unit and staff to support this initiative.
“Too many unvaccinated North Carolinians are unnecessarily getting sick, being hospitalized, and dying,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “Nearly all cases are in people who have not been vaccinated. This is preventable. Don’t wait to vaccinate.”
As of July 19, only 49% of North Carolina residents are partially vaccinated compared to 41% of those living in the 18 westernmost counties. Only 46% of those 18 and older are fully vaccinated.
In some WNC communities, vaccination rates are even lower, putting unvaccinated residents at greater risk of serious illness and death. The mobile vaccine center will help boost regional efforts to vaccinate people as quickly as possible to protect them from the highly contagious virus.
The mobile vaccine center can administer up to 250 vaccines each day. It will be at the Asheville Outlets on Brevard Road Wednesday, July 21 through Sunday, July 25 and at the Canton Recreation Park in Haywood County on July 28. Mobile vaccine teams will be deployed from the home base to support festivals like Merlefest and Folkmoot and communities across WNC.
No appointment is needed, and all three approved vaccines will be available. All three have proven effective against COVID-19 illness and its complications. More than 335 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines have been safely administered across the United States since December 2020.
“Having additional opportunities to make vaccination more convenient is important,” said Bryan Hodge, D.O., director of the Department of Community and Population Health at UNC Health Sciences at MAHEC. “From day one, WNC’s vaccine consortium has worked to ensure regional vaccination efforts are well coordinated, distributed equitably, and are responsive to community needs.”
The WNC Vaccine Acceleration Consortium, with support from the Dogwood Health Trust, brings federal, state and local public health professionals together with regional partners to share information and resources and improve access to COVID-19 vaccines. The partnership with state and local health departments and FEMA is one of many strategies to put this powerful prevention tool within reach of all WNC residents.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, Dogwood Health Trust has worked closely with healthcare providers and community organizations to keep our communities safe,” said Susan Mims, M.D., MPH, interim CEO. “Through convening the WNC Vaccine Acceleration Consortium, we are focusing with our partners to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available for all eligible residents in western NC.”