KENANSVILLE — Traffic in and around Kenansville was tied up for several hours on Thursday morning, Jan. 14, as Duplin County Health Department officials hosted a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination event for seniors age 75 and older.

The Health Department had 900 doses of the vaccine on hand, and the shots were administered while individuals stayed in their vehicles inside the Events Center. There have been no reports of the Health Department running out of vaccines during the event, but Health Department Director Tracey Simmons-Kornegay said that traffic patrollers from the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office and N.C. State Highway Patrol may have turned some individuals away when the vaccines started to get low.

After receiving their vaccines, individuals were asked to wait for at least 15 minutes to ensure that there were no adverse side effects to getting the shot.

“Vaccine recipients will return for their second dose of the vaccine in four weeks,” the Health Department reported in a press release issued on Friday. “Additional drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinics are being planned to continue providing vaccinations to the community following the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Vaccination Plan.”

“We are hopeful some of the primary care practices in Duplin County will start to receive COVID-19 vaccine within the next several weeks,” Simmons-Kornegay said. “Each vaccination provider receives a weekly allocation determined by the state. Due to the inconsistent amount of vaccine received weekly, it makes it harder to plan for more than a week or two at a time.”

The health department has had limited appointments over the last several weeks, with essential healthcare workers in Phase 1a given priority.

“There have been some appointments for individuals who are 75-plus; however, the health department cannot schedule appointments for everyone within each phase,” Simmons-Kornegay added. “So the current plan is to continue with drive-thru vaccination clinics over the next several months in order to get the vaccine out to a large number of individuals as quickly and safely as possible as we move through each phase.”

Duplin County Government thanked the following departments and community partners for their assistance in making last Thursday’s event successful: American Red Cross, Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, Duplin County Emergency Management, Duplin County Emergency Medical Services, Duplin County Facility Services, Duplin County Fire Marshal, Duplin County Health Department, Duplin County Manager’s Office, Duplin County Public Information Office, Duplin County Schools, Duplin County Services for the Aged, Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, Duplin Events Center, North Carolina State Highway Patrol, North Carolina Wing Civil Air Patrol, On Target Preparedness, University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy and Vidant Duplin Hospital.

The latest report from Vidant Health, on Jan. 14, showed that the healthcare system continues to receive weekly shipments of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, allocated by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). As of Jan. 13, more than 6,113 Vidant Health employees and providers had received the vaccine. More than 2,502 have received both doses, completing their vaccination process.

As of Jan. 14, Vidant had administered the first doses of the vaccine to 581 community members, as part of the DHHS Phase 1b.

Vidant’s system-wide census of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was at 193 on Jan. 14. “It remains important for our community to help flatten the curve by continuing to practice important safety habits: wear a mask, wash hands often and avoid gatherings,” Vidant reminded citizens in its bi-weekly update.

Simmons-Kornegay said that the county’s positivity rate has continued to remain above 10 percent for the last several weeks. “We are hopeful the positively rate will start to decrease by the first of February as we would have completed two incubation periods (one incubation period equals 14 days) since the holidays.”

She also cautioned that being vaccinated doesn’t mean individuals should necessarily go back to pre-COVID habits. “After receiving your two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, you should continue to practice the 3Ws while we continue to learn more about the protection provided from the vaccine,” she said.

Further details on future drive-thru vaccine clinics will be announced as they become available. In the future, individuals are asked to enter the Duplin Events Center area on N.C. 11 from the Kenansville Bypass, rather than from the town of Kenansville.

Abby Cavenaugh may be reached at acavenaugh@ncweeklies.com or 910-296-0239.