Robeson County fully vaccinated rate lags at 25%; hospital hopes to change that

State - Regional

LUMBERTON, N.C. (WBTW) — Although around two-thirds of Americans have now had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccination rates in the Carolinas are still lagging.

Only about 25% of the population in Robeson County have completed both doses.

UNC Health Southeastern is using new approaches in hopes to raise that number. In the past few weeks, it’s had its primary clinics to house the vaccine.

“The benefit that we have seen now is that the primary care providers play an essential role in really helping to counsel the patient,” said Raymond Henley, the director of physician services for UNC Health Southeastern. “What we’ve seen is that patients have an established relationship with their primary care provider, and sometimes that provider is able to speak on their level.”

Henley hopes that approach will help reduce lingering vaccine hesitancy and transportation barriers in the county. He said the hospital will soon begin offering doses to people being discharged, as well.

These efforts are to try and prevent a potential spike in cases later in the year in Robeson County.

“We are concerned about another surge,” he said. “If you look at the variants that are out there, as we enter into the fall months, people stay indoors more. It gets colder and that’s where we’re looking at as we want to prevent another surge.”

Almost all of the patients coming to the hospital with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to Henley. That’s on par with new research from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which said that during the first two weeks of June, it tracked 1,635 newly reported cases that it was able to determine an individual’s vaccine status for. Of those, 1,540 cases – or 94% of those new cases – were not fully vaccinated.

“What we’re seeing is folks who are not vaccinated, or fully vaccinated, for the most part not vaccinated, are the ones who seem to be coming in,” said Paul Richardson, the CEO of Conway Medical Center. “We have had a slight uptick in the last couple or so weeks.”

South Carolina’s fully-vaccinated rate is 43%.

“Rates are so much lower in our younger population,” Richardson said. “That those will be the folks who will be getting infected.”

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