RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Less than half of North Carolinians eligible for a COVID-19 shot are fully vaccinated, even though there are more than 2.1 million doses waiting on shelves for residents to take.
In the two weeks since the state announced four $1 million prizes would be given out to vaccinated adults, less than 118,000 residents, about 1% of the state population, came in for a first dose.
North Carolina ranks 12th-worst in the nation in vaccines administered per capita, and second-worst among states with a Democratic governor, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those lagging numbers were the context under which President Joe Biden visited Raleigh on Thursday to urge North Carolinians to come in for a COVID-19 vaccine.
“Please, please get vaccinated,” he begged, noting he was “preaching to the choir" at the Green Road Community Center.
“Folks, there is no reason to leave yourself vulnerable to the deadly virus for one single day more,” Biden told the small crowd.
Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, the state's top public health official, are sounding the alarm that a more dangerous delta variant is spreading and communities with high unvaccinated populations are most vulnerable, even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to drop statewide.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is working to expand at-home testing resources and offer more residents the ability to get paid to go in for their shot. Any North Carolina resident may receive a Pixel by Labcorp COVID-19 test kit that is shipped overnight to their home at no cost. Participating sites in 38 counties are now offering $25 cash cards to anyone 18 or older who gets their first shot or drives someone to get vaccinated.
The governor's goal to get two-thirds of North Carolina adults at least partially vaccinated is months away from happening at the current rate, as only about 50,000 residents got their first dose in each of the last three weeks.
State health officials on Friday pointed to Bladen County as a particularly problematic area, given that only one in three residents are fully vaccinated and 36% have gotten at least one shot. The vaccination rates in some nearby counties are even worse. State data shows roughly one in five Hoke County residents and one in four residents in both Robeson and Cumberland counties are fully vaccinated.
“What’s happening in Bladen County is preventable,” Cohen said in a statement. “More than 99% of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina are in people who are not fully vaccinated. Vaccines are working.”
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Anderson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.