‘Everybody needs to step up and get a vaccine’: Cooper tours Gastonia clinics

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper made two stops in Gastonia Wednesday to tour clinics offering COVID-19 vaccines.

Cooper’s first stop was at Gaston Medical Partners.

The almost two-year-old independent practice is vaccinating 100 patients a week with Moderna shots. Cooper said independent practices will be getting additional doses over the coming weeks. He hopes these providers with longstanding relationships with their patients will help convince hesitant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Who knows how much vaccine hesitancy you are able to overcome because you are getting them the shot and they trust you,” Cooper told Gaston Medical Partners.

Following his stop at Gaston Medical Partners, Cooper visited CaroMont Health where thousands of people are being vaccinated this week.

The people receiving shots are not all from Gaston County. In Mecklenburg County, COVID-19 vaccine appointments are still filling up within in hours, sometimes minutes. In more rural counties, slots sometimes take days to fill.

According to Cooper, numerous providers told the state their demand slowed, which allowed the state to push up the timeline for additional people to get vaccinated.

“We are going to do all we can to reach every single person and convince them for the protection of their family, their friends and everybody, that everybody needs to step up and get a vaccine,” he said.

Cooper said vaccines are the pathway forward but state health officials reminded people the vaccines are not 100% effective. State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson confirmed a few people in North Carolina have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. Tilson did not have an exact figure but said it is less than a dozen.

The cases are under investigation. Dubbed “break-throughs,” none of these new COVID patients were seriously ill.

“We expect there will be some break-throughs but even if you are fully vaccinated, even if you were to contract COVID, the severity of that illness will be greatly decreased,” Tilson said.

According to Cooper, 76% of the state’s senior population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 66% of seniors are fully vaccinated.

North Carolina is expecting to receive 148,000 doses of Johnson and Johnson doses this week.

Cooper said he and Tilson are amazed at the interest in the J&J shot. He said people are attracted to the “one and done” and compared it to a “great freshman basketball player.”