Vaccination sites will serve thousands across the state

CHAPEL HILL, NC –  University of North Carolina System campuses will operate COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the coming weeks and months, with an emphasis on reaching underserved and rural populations.

This week, University of North Carolina Asheville, University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Western Carolina University will open their community clinics. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University launched its vaccine operation on February 11, and will administer up to 700 doses each week in conjunction with Cone Health.

The clinics were coordinated in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and North Carolina Emergency Management. Universities also worked with county health departments, local emergency managers and health care systems in their areas.

“The faster we can distribute these vaccines, the faster we can get North Carolinians back to work, back to family gatherings, back to normal life,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “Our public universities will do everything in their power to bring that day closer.”

UNC Asheville has joined with Mountain Area Health Education Center to open a clinic starting this week and continuing through May at the UNCA Reuter Center. Initially, the site will operate Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Eventually, the clinic could offer up to 1,950 shots per week, depending on staffing and vaccine supply.

“As a key community partner in Western North Carolina, UNC Asheville is honored to collaborate with MAHEC to provide lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines to our community,” said UNCA Chancellor Nancy J. Cable.

UNC Pembroke will use mobile units to deliver vaccines to remote areas, including long-term care facilities throughout the county. Working with the Robeson County Health Department, UNCP will administer 500 shots in its first allotment, starting Friday. A vaccination site will be set up at the health department.

Chancellor Cummings receives his vaccine at UNCP.

“Barriers to access exist in our communities and the goal with our mobile clinics is to remove obstacles and making sure the vaccine is available to everyone,” said UNCP Chancellor Robin Cummings.

Western Carolina will run its clinic on weekdays out of the College Health and Human Sciences building as a direct vaccine provider, although initially the university will join with the Jackson County Department of Public Health to clear a backlog of individuals in high priority groups.

“We are proud to serve our communities in this way,” said WCU Chancellor Kelli Brown. “And we are especially proud to work initially with Jackson County to reduce the backlog of county residents who are eagerly waiting to be vaccinated. We will then expand vaccination efforts to the university’s entire WNC service region.”

NC A&T will offer clinics with Cone Health, with first shot clinics on Thursdays and, beginning in March, second shot clinics on Tuesdays. Due to impending icy conditions, the Thursday clinic this week will be postponed until Monday, Feb. 22.

Chancellor Harold Martin and his wife, Davida, recently recorded a video urging African Americans to get the vaccine. The public service announcement showed the couple receiving the shot and talking about the importance of protecting the community.

“I understand the anxieties and the fear, but listen, I understand the science,” Martin said in the video.

At the new clinics, vaccines will be available, by appointment only, to those who meet the state’s eligibility criteria.

Earlier this year, the UNC System, working through UNC-Chapel Hill’s NC Policy Collaboratory, acquired freezers capable of storing and transporting vaccines at sub-zero temperatures. Fifteen campuses received a total of 62 freezers, including 29 mobile units that can distribute the vaccine across North Carolina.

Besides the four new clinics, other UNC System campuses are planning similar efforts to host vaccination sites or assist local health agencies. In addition, UNC Health has administered more than 150,000 vaccines at its clinics around the state, including a large site at the Friday Center in Chapel Hill.