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Republican Representatives Cast Blame on Governor Cooper, NCDHHS for COVID-19 Vaccination Strategies and Shortages

By Nathan Ham

North Carolina Republicans, two of which serve Watauga and Ashe County, are unhappy with current COVID-19 vaccination totals and are blaming state leaders for these problems.

United States Representative Virginia Foxx and North Carolina Representative Ray Pickett, as well as N.C. House Speaker Roy Moore all issued statements on Wednesday with their concerns for the vaccination rollout and shortages.

“For weeks, I’ve spoken with county health officials, constituents, and members of Operation Warp Speed regarding North Carolina’s progress on vaccine distribution. I’ve been present within countless conversations, and I’m troubled by the Cooper Administration’s previous actions. If Governor Cooper and his health advisors are to lead the state in vaccination efforts, their volatile strategy of distribution can’t be prolonged any further. Public health and transparency are true bedfellows, but when clear and concise directives from state officials and health authorities are not acted upon and made clear to the public, the floodgates are opened to numerous inequities and mismanagement. Hardworking citizens in Western North Carolina fear being left behind by their own government, and they’re beyond outraged at the efforts to date to protect them,” said Foxx. “This vaccine distribution effort was funded by federal taxpayer dollars, and doses are distributed to states equitably based on population. Simply put, the Cooper Administration should be operating under the same standards of transparency and equity but have failed to do so. Moreover, the Cooper Administration launched its efforts under a flawed premise that North Carolina would be penalized if it gave vaccination equity its rightful place in this process. That premise is wholly incorrect, and now is the time to correct that egregious misstep. At a time when cases are on the rise, families fear for their livelihoods, and the state is reeling from the devastating economic impacts of this virus, rural and urban counties within the state should not be left to fend for themselves. I call on Governor Cooper to immediately address this issue and to prevent further missteps in this process from recurring. Unnecessary and costly delays further strain the health and safety of North Carolinians.”

Rep. Pickett, who represents District 93 (Ashe and Watauga County) in the N.C. House of Representatives, called the current vaccination strategy “completely unacceptable.”

“We are ranked as one of the very worst in the nation in vaccine distribution and this week’s news of mass appointment cancellations adds insult to injury. I’ve received numerous calls from constituents who were concerned over redistribution of doses to the mass vaccination sites. Reducing the amount of vaccines at the rural level and prioritizing cities is unacceptable and is alienating many at-risk citizens. NC DHHS leaders have promised to adjust their vaccine distribution strategy to be more equitable to rural communities and my office is here to make sure they follow through on that promise,” Pickett continued.

Speaker Moore’s statements were included in a letter to the members of the House Health Committee that was sent on Tuesday. He is also unhappy with what he feels like is “marginalizing rural communities”

“Local health departments, including my own in Cleveland County, have expressed concerns that the shifting priorities of the Department of Health and Human Services are marginalizing rural communities where residents lack mobility, particularly among elderly populations. County leaders have complained of receiving conflicting information regarding distribution plans and the size of vaccine deliveries. Secretary Mandy Cohen apologized directly to county health departments for this lack of transparency and communication this week, but further action is needed,” Moore said. “This inconsistency puts our local health departments in an impossible position, damaging the credibility of state and county officials with citizens who rely on them for critical information about this process. I hear concerns from county officials that they are given limited information from DHHS, but are then expected to dialogue directly with North Carolinians without any answers to their concerns. Significant concerns were also raised by healthcare institutions in our state this week with the changes to vaccine supply chain management implemented by DHHS. As DHHS has now announced further reforms to their protocols in response to those concerns, the work of the House Health Committee is vital to ensure their response does not further exacerbate an urban-rural divide.”

According to the latest data from NCDHHS, as of January 25, the state has administered 95 percent of the first dose vaccines that North Carolina medical providers have been allocated by the federal government (630,774 doses out of 667,350 available doses).