RALEIGH, N.C. – Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) and Representative Jake Johnson (R-Transylvania) issued the below statement:
Counties, where Democrats hold 100% of the legislative seats, have received enough COVID-19 vaccine to cover 10.3% of their population, while counties controlled by 100% Republicans have only received enough to cover 7.5%.
It's clear that mountain counties are being denied. Only two of twenty-two westernmost counties have received at least the same percentage of doses as 100% Democrat-controlled counties.
After numerous complaints from area hospital leadership, county health departments, and elected leaders, and with no clear answers from the Governor's office; Sen. Chuck Edwards decided to dive deep into the numbers. He and Rep. Jake Johnson previously spent countless hours asking questions in oversight meetings, phone calls, and pleading by mail to bring more vaccinations to the western counties. Whether or not the blurry criteria for vaccine distribution are politically motivated, the 'science and data' indicates that politics might work.
Sen. Chuck Edwards said, "There is no logical reason why Western North Carolina is allowed to fall behind on protecting our population and restoring our economy. Our region is the state's retirement capital, and we have a greater percentage of citizens at a higher risk of illness due to their age. It is exasperating that our appeals to NCDHHS have gone unnoticed. It's not fair that vaccines are being sent to mega-sites and the coast when we have an equal need in the mountains. If politics is not at play here, the Governor has a chance to prove it by quickly sending more vaccines our way and changing the statistics within my research."
Rep. Jake Johnson said, "It's been frustrating to see the Governor and his Department move to a distribution plan that has completely left out many Western North Carolina counties. A high percentage of our citizens here fall into that vulnerable age category and are in areas where they cannot travel long distances to access the large vaccine sites in Charlotte or Raleigh. If someone makes the personal choice to receive the vaccine, there should be a more equitable system in place, not winners and losers being chosen by the Government. If the vaccines are made available, I trust that our local communities can develop an efficient and effective distribution method."
Elaine Russell, the Transylvania County Health Director, recently met with Sen. Edwards and Rep. Johnson to share concerns from health directors statewide and the issues she finds in Transylvania County.
Population (2019): The Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM)
Vaccination distribution: NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Vaccination Dashboard (2/1/2021)