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Editor’s note: As more COVID-19 vaccine doses become available and other information about access changes, it’s hard to stay current. The News + Record is offering this guide. It’ll be updated online as new information becomes available.
Since mid-December, five COVID-19 vaccine providers have emerged in Chatham County. Within the county, Chatham residents can get vaccinated with UNC Health’s Chatham clinic, the county’s public health department, Piedmont Health Services, Siler City Pharmacy and Walgreens.
As of Tuesday, most Chatham providers receive the Moderna vaccine. Per state guidelines, all providers are administering vaccines to frontline health care workers (Group 1), adults aged 65 and older (Group 2), frontline essential workers (Group 3) and adults 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions (Group 4).
The News + Record spoke with representatives from all five about the vaccine scheduling process and appointments. Here’s what you can expect from each provider.
UNC Health emerged as the county’s first vaccine provider in mid-December, when vaccines first became available. Since then, UNC’s Chatham clinic, located behind Chatham Hospital, has administered more than 6,250 vaccinations.
According to Chief Medical Officer Andrew Hannapel, the UNC Chatham clinic has been averaging about between 200 to 300 vaccinations per day, Mondays through Fridays, plus an additional 400 first doses on Saturdays when allotment allows. Combined first and second doses, the clinic has been vaccinating between 1,200 and 1,700 people per week.
“These numbers fluctuate depending upon vaccine allocation,” he added.
To get vaccinated at UNC’s Chatham clinic, you have three options: call 984-215-5485, schedule online via yourshot.health or schedule through your My UNC Chart account.
“If they have access to online, and then if they have the ability and know-how to do that, it’s much more efficient,” Hannapel said. “You can do it without talking to someone.”
To schedule online, visit yourshot.health, click on “Get Vaccinated” in the top right-hand corner and scroll down until you see “Schedule Your Appointment Online.” If any appointments are available, you will first need to answer several screening questions to verify your eligibility. These questions will also determine whether you have any COVID-19 symptoms and ensure you haven’t had a previous COVID-19 vaccine.
After answering these questions, you’ll attest that you’re eligible. After, you can choose which vaccine you want: the single-shot Johnson & Johnson or the two-shot vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer. From there, the website will take you to the available appointments, each divided by location.
“One of the other things that UNC is trying to do is if there are slots available at the Friday Center ... if you’re closer to there, is to get you over there,” Hannapel said, adding, “Now, if you say, ‘Siler City,’ they will get you into Siler City if there’s an available appointment. If they don’t have an appointment that’s available there, that’s when they try to look for other places.”
UNC Health doesn’t offer a waitlist. To boost your chances of snagging appointments, the UNC Health website advises that you check for appointments “mid-to-late afternoon” during the work week since that’s when they expect to release open appointments to the public.
While scheduling your appointment, you will need to provide your name and date of birth. Per the state’s guidelines, the Chatham clinic also asks for gender, race and ethnicity, but Hannapel said that’s optional. UNC Health doesn’t require you to present ID or health insurance to get vaccinated, but if you have health insurance, staff ask that you present your card so that they can bill your health insurance for the vaccine administration costs. The vaccine itself doesn’t cost anything.
Staff also ask that you print out the COVID-19 Vaccine Patient Questionnaire Form on UNC Health’s website, fill it out and bring it to the appointment. If you can’t print the form, you can simply fill it out once you arrive at your appointment.
UNC’s Chatham clinic is located in the Medical Office Building, behind Chatham Hospital at 163 Progress Blvd. Just outside, staff still hold drive-thru COVID-19 testing under a tent, while the vaccine clinic is indoors.
“We have parking,” Hannapel said. “We’ve cleared out, and all of our employees are now parking up at the hospital, so we have more parking for people coming through.”
After you arrive for your appointment, staff will have you wait in your car until five minutes before your appointment. Once that five-minute mark arrives, Hannapel said you’ll then “queue up.” Staff register you in the UNC Health system as well as the state’s coronavirus management system, or the CVMS, “so that (you) get recorded and (you) get on track for a … second dose.” After that, you’ll get your shot.
“Then we have them wait, and we have (them) physically distanced, six feet apart, both in the hallway as well as in our conference room, where they sit,” Hannapel added. “They can be observed for 15 minutes, and then they leave.”
During your appointment, staff will also schedule your second-dose appointment for four weeks later. When you arrive for your second appointment, you will need to bring the slip of paper that recorded your first shot. You can’t receive your second dose with different providers or in different locations, Hannapel said.
“We say no because it’s too hard,” he added. “Clinics can go into the CVMS and see that you received it four weeks ago and therefore you are eligible to receive it, but what happens is there might not be a dose held for you.”
Generally, you shouldn’t wait long for your appointment, Hannapel said, unless you arrive early.
“If your appointment is at 1:15, you’re getting your vaccination at 1:15 and then (after) 15 minutes of observation, you’re out of there by 1:30,” he said. “I mean it’s a maximum (of) 30 minutes, but it doesn’t take that long.”
UNC’s Chatham clinic, he added, isn’t wasting any doses; since Moderna vials have 10 doses in a vial, staff make sure that they have 10 people “ready” before opening the last vial.
“So at this point, we have not had to waste nor have we had to go outside the appropriate phase to find somebody to give that dose to,” he said. “Very rarely did we need one or two more people, and we can find them within our healthcare workers that haven’t been vaccinated yet who are now considering to be vaccinated.”
The Chatham County Public Health Department began vaccinating residents in early January and as of Monday has administered over 4,700 doses. Starting last week, they’ve begun to receive about 600 first doses from the state.
To register for a vaccination appointment, you can call the CCPHD’s COVID info line call center at 919-545-8323 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Online, you can fill out the health department’s Vaccine Information Tool.
You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, contact information and type of employment, which helps identify your priority group, according to Public Health Director Mike Zelek. You don’t have to fill in all the information the tool asks you.
“It is helpful that we have complete information, as this is used to determine eligibility and the information is required by NC DHHS during the vaccination process,” Zelek said, “so it speeds up the registration process.”
Registering online via the vaccine tool, Zelek said, is the most efficient way. Once you complete the form, you will be entered into the department’s database — the waitlist — under your priority group. To boost your chances of getting vaccinated quickly, Zelek said, you should register with multiple vaccine providers, both inside and outside the county.
Once you’re on the health department’s waitlist, staff will reach out to you via email or robocall once appointments become available.
“We typically reach out by email or robocall to more individuals on the list than there are appointments available when we are scheduling an event, and then schedule on a first-come, first-served basis,” Zelek said. “For example, the call will inform the individual that appointments are available on a certain date and to call the scheduling line to make an appointment (similar approach by email using an online scheduling platform).”
The health department holds drive-thru clinics, so once you arrive, you won’t need to leave your car. Staff will verify your appointment and give you a form to complete for the state’s CVMS system. After reviewing your information, they’ll administer the shot once you consent to receiving it.
At the end, you’ll receive a CDC vaccination card with your return appointment four weeks later, Zelek said. Before driving off, you’ll need to wait for 15 to 30 minutes in your car in case you have any allergic reaction.
“For CCPHD (Moderna vaccine), the (second) appointment will typically be the same time, same place, four weeks later,” Zelek said. “Because doses come in ten-dose vials, it is important that individuals show up for their second doses at the scheduled time, as we cannot accommodate rescheduling. Once we open the vial, we must use all doses within six hours.”
Piedmont Health Services has three Chatham clinics: the Siler City Community Health Center, the Moncure Community Health Center and the Piedmont Health SeniorCare center in Pittsboro. All three are administering Moderna vaccines to eligible residents.
Piedmont began vaccinating people in January, and according to CEO Brian Toomey, its vaccine supplies vary every week. He told the News + Record last Wednesday that Piedmont had been vaccinating between 1,300 and 1,500 people per week across all locations. Last Saturday, staff administered over 650 doses of vaccine in Burlington.
To schedule an appointment with Piedmont Health Services, you can go online to Piedmont Health’s website. There, you’ll find a red button labeled “COVID Testing and Vaccine Info.” Once you click on that, you’ll find a section for new patients and a link to the form you need to fill out. Existing patients only need to call their medical centers to schedule appointments.
According to spokesperson Debra Markley, Piedmont asks that new patients don’t call to schedule vaccine appointments.
“People will call and they’ll find out it’s not answered as quickly as they want to because we’re getting approximately 3,000 calls a day,” Toomey added. “There can be a phone number, but people should understand that that’s probably going to be the least likely connection.”
Piedmont’s online form will ask you for your name, date of birth, cell phone number and the site in which you prefer to be vaccinated. Once you submit this form, you’ll get onto Piedmont’s waitlist.
“Those lists are really used,” Markley said. “Those lists are printed off and appointments are used. It’s not like you go into a black hole and you’re never seen, your name is never called.”
After you get on Piedmont’s waitlist, staff will contact you once appointments become available and if you’re eligible. Last Wednesday, Toomey told the News + Record that Piedmont had vaccinated most people on its waiting list in Groups 1 and 2, and would be moving on to school personnel and daycare workers (Group 3).
“We’re actually working directly with the school systems,” he said, “so we’re coordinating with them to make sure that they’re putting together their lists of their staff, so that we could do it in an organized way.”
Once you’ve got your appointment with Piedmont scheduled, he said, you’ll drive up to your designated site wearing your mask. If the weather allows, Piedmont holds most vaccination clinics outside. When Piedmont works with school systems or employers, however, Toomey said they may hold indoor vaccinations in places where people can safely come and go, like school gyms.
You should arrive with some form of ID, he added, though it’s not required, and bring your health insurance card if you have it.
“If you have it, we will bill your health insurance,” he said. “If you don’t have insurance, you’re not gonna pay. Either your insurance is going to pay or the state will give us a fee to pay, but you personally will not pay.”
It helps, he added, to have your CVMS documentation already filled out as well.
Once you arrive, staff will approach your window and verify your appointment information. Then they’ll go through several screening questions; some questions will seek to verify your eligibility, make sure you have no COVID symptoms and ask whether you’ve already received a COVID vaccine.
“(Staff will) make sure they have the right documents in place, you know, your CVMS stuff,” he said. “If we haven’t entered it for you already, we will spend time entering it then. That’s why it saves a lot of time if it’s already been entered.”
After that’s taken care of, you’ll go through and get your shot. Afterward, you’ll pull over and wait in a designated area for 15 to 30 minutes to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.
“And then you’re on your way,” Toomey said. “You’ll be given a card that says, ‘Dose 1’ and/or ‘Dose 2.’ And if it’s Dose 1, you’ll leave with an appointment for Dose 2 (at the same place).”
Toomey estimated that appointments take between 30 to 60 minutes on average, but everything depends on how prepared you and other patients are. If you and patients in front of you have your documentation done ahead of time, he said, the wait shouldn’t be long.
“If we have to enter a lot of stuff for (people) at the time, that’s going to add 10 minutes for each person,” he said, adding, “It’s not new information nobody knows they need. It’s information. Get it done, and everything will be faster, smoother and better.”
Located on 202 East Raleigh Street, Siler City Pharmacy is Chatham County’s newest vaccine provider. Last week, it received 100 first doses of Moderna vaccine, a week later than intended thanks to weather delays. According to Pharmacist Manager Angelynn Fox, the pharmacy held its first vaccine clinic last Saturday.
The pharmacy scheduled all of its doses, Fox said, and she’s not sure how many more will be coming their way in the future.
“There’s not a real way to know exactly what I’m going to receive,” she told the News + Record last Friday. “I’m going to get an email literally almost every Thursday that says whether or not I’m going to be receiving doses that have to be administered almost by the next Monday, or Tuesday of, I guess, it’ll be like a week and a half after.”
Though appointments are no longer available, you can still sign up for Siler City Pharmacy’s waitlist online by going to the pharmacy’s website and clicking on a red button labeled, “COVID-19 Vaccine Waitlist.” You’ll then be invited to fill out a form with your name, date of birth and eligibility criteria. The form also asks for demographic information.
“If you look at our website, there’s a red button that says, ‘COVID-19 Testing,’ and right next to it, there’ll be another red button that says, ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Appointments’ when we have appointments that are available,” Fox said. “You have to answer questions pertaining to eligibility, and if you are eligible based on your response to those questions, it will take you to an appointment scheduler that has all of the screening questions included.”
If you don’t have online access, you can call the pharmacy at 919-663-5541. After snagging an appointment with the pharmacy, you would receive an email confirming your appointment time.
“Then they’re just gonna show up to the pharmacy, bring their insurance card and receive a vaccine, hang out with me for 15 minutes, and all of course is going to go well, and they’ll be on their way,” she said. “They receive their the COVID-19 vaccination card that also has their subsequent appointment written on the back of it.”
No ID or health insurance is required, she added; patients won’t pay any fee for the vaccine. Since the pharmacy has Moderna doses, you would get your second shot at the same time and same place four weeks later.
The pharmacy will offer both indoor and drive-thru vaccinations, Fox said, especially for people who can’t go inside. Siler City Pharmacy doesn’t have you fill out the CVMS form; staff will do that for you during your appointment, which may take between 15 to 20 minutes per patient.
Walgreens began administering COVID-19 vaccinations in North Carolina less than a month ago. In early February, North Carolina announced Walgreens as its choice to participate in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, a program meant to speed up vaccinations by allotting vaccine doses to select pharmacies across the country.
As a part of the program, Walgreens receives more than 480,000 vaccine doses a week from the federal government across 28 jurisdictions, including North Carolina, according to Walgreens corporate spokesperson Campbell O’Connor.
If you’re eligible, you can schedule a vaccination appointment with Walgreens online at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine. You'll need to make a Walgreens account if you don't have one. You could also call 1-800-WALGREENS, which is available in English and Spanish. No walk-in appointments are available.
“The best way for people to schedule an appointment and find locations in their area is to use the scheduler, and customers can also sign up to receive alerts about available vaccine appointments here,” O’Connor said. “At this time, we do not provide a comprehensive list of store locations or individual store allocations.”
In Chatham County, Walgreens has two stores in Siler City and Pittsboro. On Feb. 5, several Walgreens employees in Chatham told the News + Record that the Siler City store, located on U.S Hwy. 64, had been selected to receive doses, but could not confirm whether the Pittsboro store had been as well.
Before you schedule your appointment, Walgreens’ scheduler will provide the current eligibility criteria and require you to attest your eligibility.
“Upon arriving at their vaccine appointment, patients must sign an affidavit confirming they meet their state’s eligibility requirement for the vaccine,” O’Connor added. “Patients also need to show a valid government ID to confirm their identity at the time of their vaccination appointment.”
You’ll also be able to schedule your second-dose appointment with Walgreens the same time you schedule your first.
“In this fluid situation during which vaccine inventory remains limited, our aim is to ensure eligible patients are able to receive vaccinations as soon as possible,” O’Connor said, “and we ask for patience as eligible individuals attempt to schedule appointments.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.