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COVID-19 Updates, Testing and Vaccines

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Department of Health News

Current COVID-19 Immunization Phase

Jan. 18, 2021 Update

All online vaccine appointments are currently filled.
More appointments will become available when vaccine allotments are announced from the state.


For Immediate Release

Jan. 18, 2021

Later this week, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) will be offering more opportunities for the COVID-19 vaccine, including scheduling opportunities for adults 65 and older and healthcare workers. Before we go live, Buncombe County continues to increase critical staffing and infrastructure to help support the rollout of available vaccine in Buncombe County. We ask the community to continue to be patient while we work through these steps.

BCHHS began administering vaccine to those in the previous Phase 1a on Dec. 22. Since then, BCHHS has administered 3,000 vaccines with more than 2,800 appointments scheduled for this week.
Those individuals needing the second dose of the vaccine will receive a direct communication from BCHHS with next steps using the contact information provided at the first vaccination. They do not need to call or go through the online portal to schedule that appointment.

Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. View the phases here:
NCDHHS determines the vaccine allocation to counties. Current vaccine supply remains low.

At this time, there are no vacant appointments. Community members can receive information about vaccination phases and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by texting “BCAlert” to 888-777.


For Immediate Release
Jan. 14, 2021

State Re-Calibrates Vaccine Phasing, Vaccines for Health Care Workers and Adults 65 and Older In Buncombe Begins Feb. 1

Today the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that vaccine providers may vaccinate all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older.

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) had begun administering vaccine to those 75 years and older per the previous NCDHHS plan and is committed to providing vaccinations to those 75 years and older until Feb 1, 2021. BCHHS will continue to provide appointments to those over the age of 75 and will begin to provide appointments for individuals 65 and older starting Feb. 1, 2021.

Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states must make vaccine available in phases. View the phases at

NCDHHS determines the vaccine allocation to counties. Current vaccine supply remains low. BCHHS will alert our community of available appointments as more vaccine doses are received.

Currently, all appointments for available vaccines have been scheduled. Community members can receive information about vaccination phases, available appointments, and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by texting “BCAlert” to 888-777.

Another update will be provided on Jan. 15, 2021.

Jan. 13, 2021 Update

At this time Buncombe County Health and Human Services has not received additional vaccine supply, so no new appointments added today. Another update will be provided on Jan. 14, 2021

Jan. 12, 2021 Update:

Buncombe County Public Health officials provided an update and answered questions during a Special Meeting of the Board of Commissioners.

Jan. 11, 2021 Update

More than 1,400 Vaccines Administered, 1,200 Scheduled by BCHHS

Since receiving the first COVID-19 vaccines on Jan. 6, Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) staff have administered more than 1,433 vaccines and scheduled approximately 1,200 appointments this week. While all appointments are currently booked, more appointments will be made available when vaccine allotments are confirmed. To ensure that everyone who scheduled a vaccine is able to receive one, walk-ups are not allowed at this time.

“During this time of significant spread, there is hope amongst us,” said Buncombe County Health Director Stacie Saunders. “Vaccine rollout of this magnitude is unprecedented and not without its bumps in the road. Our biggest hurdle now is limited vaccine supply. We ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we continue to vaccinate our community with such small amounts of vaccine. While we will not have ample supplies for some time, we remain committed to fighting COVID-19.”

Currently, the only authorized COVID-19 vaccinators in Buncombe County are BCHHS and Mission/HCA. In the coming weeks and months, local clinics and physician practices are anticipated to receive authorization from the state to administer the vaccine to their patients, as well.

Community members can receive information about vaccination phases, available appointments, and how to schedule appointments by signing up for the COVID-19 email newsletter at Community members can also receive alerts to their phones by going to

BCHHS officials will provide a COVID community update to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners at its Jan. 12 special called meeting, which will be streamed live on Buncombe County Government Facebook (English), Buncombe County Health and Human Services Facebook (Spanish) and BCTV.

Know Before You Go:

  • If you have a confirmed reservation, then you are guaranteed to receive the vaccine.
  • To ensure that everyone who scheduled a vaccine is able to receive one, walk-ups are not permitted at this time.
  • If you scheduled online, but didn’t receive an email confirmation, call 250-5000. (Confirmation emails may also be in the recipient’s “junk mail” folder.)
  • No ID or specific documents are needed when someone arrives to get a vaccine.
  • The person will have to complete a short registration form with their name and contact information, as well as a few other questions to ensure they meet the current phase’s criteria.
  • The ability to get a vaccine is not impacted by citizenship status.
  • Language services are available on site.
  • From check-in to vaccine administration, the takes about 10 minutes. Following the vaccine, patients are monitored for 15 minutes prior to being released.
  • Once a patient receives a first dose of the vaccine, they should receive a reminder for their second dose via the State’s COVID Vaccine Management System to then schedule their second dose.
  • Patients who receive the vaccine still need to continue wearing a mask, waiting six feet, and washing hands frequently.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine phases, see this NCDHHS infographic.  

COVID-19 testing is still widely available. Visit the testing page at for more information.

For more information, go to

Jan. 8, 2021 Update

About the Vaccine

Tested, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccines will help us defeat the virus, get back in control of our lives, and back to the people and places we love. Buncombe County Public Health and our community partners are following North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and have developed a local vaccination plan to serve our entire community.


Buncombe County's Current Vaccination Phase: 1B

Buncombe County Health and Human Services (BCHHS) received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine, quantity of 700 doses, on December 21. Within 24 hours of receiving the shipment, BCHHS began vaccinating individuals in the Phase 1A group. Buncombe County HHS has received two subsequent weekly shipments of vaccine of 975 doses each on December 30 and January 5. BC HHS continues to vaccinate Phase 1a population in the week of January 4. As of time of release, over 1,200 individuals in total have been vaccinated by Buncombe County HHS and Emergency Services.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) will open Phase 1B in small groups due to the limited vaccine supply. Phase 1B Group 1 will begin with persons 75 years and older in order to best manage vaccine dose availability.  BCHHS will begin vaccinating this population the week of January 11, 2021.

Important Details for Week of January 11, 2021:

  • People who fall into Phase 1B (those 75 and over) can call BCHHS starting Thursday, January 7, 2021 to schedule their COVID-19 immunization.
  • Appointments can be made by calling (828) 250-5000, Monday-Friday, between the hours of 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. As long as vaccine supply is available, appointments will be available for this population.
  • Vaccine supply is extremely limited during the first phases of the vaccination effort. For this reason, you must have an appointment to get a COVID-19 vaccination in Buncombe County at this time.
  • When making your appointment, you will receive information on where and when to arrive for your vaccine. In order to maintain a steady flow of appointments and a safe environment, please arrive at your scheduled time.
  • Remember, two COVID-19 shots are necessary to build up immunity and we have a plan to help everyone get both doses. The second shot will come 3-4 weeks after the first. It is important to get two doses of the same vaccine.   
  • The vaccine is free to everyone, even if you don’t have health insurance. While there is a small administrative fee covered by insurance, cost will not be a barrier to your COVID-19 immunization.  
  • Your ability to get a vaccine is not impacted by your citizenship status and there is not an ID requirement. You (or a legal guardian) will need to sign a consent form to get the vaccine when you arrive. Language services will be available on site.
  • Please plan for safe transportation to the immunization site. Drivers and riders should wear masks and social distance to the extent possible. Please wear a mask to the immunization site.

How to help:

As we move through the phases of the vaccination process, we ask our community to be patient. We are only able to schedule appointments based on the amount of vaccine that is shipped to our county. Please continue to practice the 3Ws and limit your exposure to others as much as possible. It will take all of us practicing the 3Ws with the vaccine, to crush COVID. 

Phased Vaccination Groups:

To see all the groups for Phases 1b and Phase 2 please review this Infographic of Vaccine Phases. As we move through new phases of vaccine distribution, BCHHS will provide information by phone, website, and via media partners. We will also coordinate closely with our community partners and networks to ensure that frontline workers have a clear path to immunizations in the later subgroups of 1B.2 and 1B.3.

The vaccination effort continues to be a fluid situation and will require patience and diligence from our community as this process depends on the vaccine supplies received each week. Stacie Saunders, Buncombe County Public Health Director, emphasizes the bigger picture of the pandemic response and says, “It is important for everyone in Buncombe County to continue following the public health guidance as we move through the subsequent phases of the vaccination plan. Full implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine plan is expected to take months, so we encourage residents to continue to follow all protective measures like wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distance from others and avoiding gatherings. We are working as hard as we can given vaccine supply limitations to get vaccine into our community.”

For more information:

BCHHS will provide information on the Buncombe Ready website, social media, and through our call center in the coming days, weeks, and months. We will continue to work closely with partner organizations, community messengers, and local media outlets to provide information throughout the phased vaccination process.

Click here to see the outline of the state's current phased approach. 


General Information about the COVID-19 Vaccine: 

If I had COVID-19, do I need to get the vaccine? 
Yes. While we know that it is very good at preventing illness in the person who gets vaccinated, we do not yet know if it prevents asymptomatic infection or transmission of infection to others. Due to the severe health risks associated with coronavirus and the fact that re-infection is possible, people should get a vaccine even if they have been sick with COVID-19 before. The immunity someone gains from having an infection varies from person to person and some early evidence suggests it may not last very long.  

Once I get vaccinated, can I stop wearing my mask and stop following the other public health recommendations? 
Even after getting vaccinated, it is still important to wear your mask and continue to follow public health guidance to protect yourself and others (e.g., the 3Ws, avoiding crowds, quarantining after exposure, etc.) Protection from the vaccine is not immediate; the first vaccines that will be available are each 2-dose series and it will take 1-2 weeks following the 2nd dose to be considered fully vaccinated.  

If I still have to follow the 3Ws and all the other public health recommendations, why bother getting vaccinated? 
Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. The two vaccines, that are likely to be available initially, have been found to be highly protective against COVID-19 illness, including severe illness. Other steps, like covering your mouth and nose with a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.  

If I'm high-risk due to chronic health issues, should I get the vax? 
Yes, we strongly recommend it. Some underlying and chronic health conditions increase your risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Clinical trials found that the vaccines were as safe and protective against COVID-19 illness in persons with underlying medical conditions compared to persons without these chronic health conditions. If you have concerns, talk to your healthcare provider. 

Are there potential side effects? 
Side effects following COVID 19 vaccination can include injection site pain, redness and swelling; fever; feeling very tired; headache; chills; muscle aches and joint pain. Most are mild to moderate in severity, occur within the first 3 days of vaccination, and resolve within 1-2 days of onset. These side effects were more commonly reported after the second dose than after the first dose and were generally more frequent and severe in persons aged 18-55 years than in those aged >55 years. 

Are there any allergy/anaphylaxis concerns?  
Anyone with a severe allergic reaction to any ingredient of the COVID-19 vaccine or after a previous dose of the same vaccine should not receive it. The ingredients of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine are: mRNA, 4 lipids (including polyethylene glycol or PEG), potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate, and sucrose. The vaccine contains no preservatives. Those who have had severe anaphylactic reactions to prior vaccines or injectable medications can still get the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, but ideally should first talk to their provider about their prior reaction. The discussion should also review the risks of having a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine versus the benefits of vaccination. These individuals should be monitored for 30 minutes following COVID vaccination (compared to 15 minutes for all others receiving the vaccine). Anyone with a history of anaphylaxis or other allergic reaction due to other things that aren’t injectable medications or vaccines (like shellfish, food, latex, pollen, animal dander or stings, etc.) does NOT need to take any special precaution and should get vaccinated. They will only have to be observed for 15 minutes post-vaccination. 

What should pregnant/breastfeeding persons do about getting the vaccine? 
There are no data yet on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy. However, the initial vaccines available are mRNA vaccines, which are not thought to be a risk to the developing fetus. Getting COVID-19 during pregnancy increases the risk of severe illness (ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death) and may lead to an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth. There are no data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in lactating persons or the effects of mRNA vaccines on the breastfed infant or milk production, but mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant. If a lactating person is part of a group who is in a priority group for a COVID-19 vaccine, they may choose to be vaccinated. A discussion with their healthcare provider can help them make an informed decision. 

In closing, the decision to get a COVID vaccine is a personal choice and we encourage people who have questions to talk with their primary care provider or seek information from scientific sources like the CDC. Remember that if you don’t get immunized against COVID-19, you will remain at risk of illness and severe disease. The fairly minor side effects of the vaccine are nothing in comparison to the potential harm from COVID-19 illness. We encourage our community to step up when it is their time for the COVID-19 immunization.  

Table: News Item Documents
File NameSizeTypeDate & Time Added
Vaccine FAQ 436 KB 01/15/2021 3:19 PM