KENANSVILLE — While the coronavirus pandemic is easing with falling rates of infection and deaths, there is still much left to do to get most Duplin County residents fully vaccinated against the infectious disease, according to data compiled by the N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

In Duplin County, Health Director Tracey Simmons-Kornegay and her staff have been getting shots into as many arms as possible in mass vaccination clinics. So far, slightly more than 10,000 Duplin County residents have been at least partially vaccinated, which amounts to just above 17 percent. About 5,400 residents have now been fully vaccinated, or 9.2 percent.

State officials estimate that about 26 percent of North Carolinians have had at least one vaccine shot, with 15 percent being considered fully vaccinated.

Finding a shot has become much easier in the last few weeks. Vaccinations have been made available at clinics held by the health department at the Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, Warsaw, Magnolia and Wallace. Appointments for vaccinations have also been available at Vidant Family Medicine in Wallace, and multiple locations of Walgreens and Goshen Medical.

The health department plans to administer 1,100 first doses and 900 second doses of Moderna vaccines this week, Simmons-Kornegay said.

This week, first shot clinics were planned for Wednesday at María Reina de las Américas Catholic Church in Beulaville, Thursday morning at Wallace Presbyterian Church and Thursday evening at Iglesia Pentecostes Santidad A Jehova in Magnolia. Two other first dose events were also scheduled for employers in the county, and a second dose event is planned for Saturday at the Duplin Events Center in Kenansville.

A call center that had been set up to handle heavy call volume on Tuesdays and Thursdays will be discontinued this week. Demand for the shots has dropped off enough that the health department will now vaccinate anyone age 18 and above, and those seeking a shot do not have to be from Duplin County.

“This upcoming week will be the last week for the county’s vaccine call center as appointment requests have drastically dropped off,” she said. “If anyone is wanting to receive a Moderna vaccine, then please call the health department at 910-296-2130 to schedule an appointment for the upcoming weekly events.”

The decrease in vaccinations has been seen across the state over the last two weeks, but it was expected.

“This is similar to what we saw with Covid testing,” Simmons-Kornegay said. “We first started with mass testing events and then moved to smaller community-based events. The health department’s plan is to follow a similar model for vaccinations.”

Despite the general drop-off in interest, several county residents answered a query on Facebook to give details of their positive experiences from having been vaccinated.

“I feel much more at ease to be out among people now,” said Ruth Dail, of Warsaw. “I do wear a mask where it’s expected, otherwise I don’t wear one. I feel like I’m smothering with the mask.”

Jennifer Armstrong, also of Warsaw, had just received her second shot.

“My arm stings a little at the site of the shot still,” Armstrong said. “Other than that I feel great. The anticipation of getting the shot, and possible side effects, was and is very high. The nurse that gave me my shot told me to go ahead and start taking whatever I normally take for pain relief. I am taking her advice.”

Dale Evans, of Beulaville, was elated to be fully vaccinated.

“I feel a sense of relief with a capital R — no side effects; not even a sore arm,” she said. “I’m ready to resume visits to friends, family and church.”

Relief was a word used by many.

“Relief is the working word,” said Marlane Carcopo, of Wallace. “I’m finally able to see the grands. . . . I can’t wait for Easter and more grandbaby hugs!”

Dr. Joell Parker, of Beulaville, said she’s happy that she’s fully vaccinated.

“I really don’t think about coronavirus very often anymore,” Parker said. “I wear a mask most of the time just out of respect for those who are worried about it and to try and be a good citizen, but otherwise, I feel my life is back to normal.”

According to DHHS, Duplin County has reported a total of 5,936 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and 128 deaths of patients who were positive for Covid-19. The last reported covid-positive patient death was reported on March 2.

Though easing, some state-mandated restrictions are still in effect.

On Friday, capacity restrictions eased for several types of businesses. Retail businesses, museums and aquariums, salons, pet grooming businesses and tattoo parlors are now allowed to go to 100 percent capacity

Restaurants, breweries, wineries, gyms, pools and amusement parks are allowed to open to 75 percent capacity; and indoor facilities such as bars, movie theaters, conference spaces and auditoriums and sports arenas are limited to 50 percent capacity. All are still subject to the mask mandate and 6-foot social distancing.

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at mjaenicke@ncweeklies.com