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Business NC: CEO Dr. Dale Owen Blasts Vaccine Distribution Process

In an interview with Business NC, Tryon Medical Partners’ CEO Dr. Dale Owen shared his thoughts on inefficiencies in North Carolina’s vaccine distribution process. While national vaccine supply is short, increasing the number of vaccine distributors, especially local physicians and pharmacies could reduce lag times and increase access to the doses available.

Below are highlights of the story, posted Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Read the entire Business NC story here.

  • Dale Owen, a cardiologist and CEO of North Carolina’s biggest independent physician practice, says COVID-19 vaccination efforts in the state and nation remain far less effective than necessary.
  • The business has had a minus-90 degree freezer capable of holding 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine since Dec. 1. It received its first dose of 200 vaccines this week, which Owen said was a redistribution from the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Tryon Medical is now promised about 200 more doses over the next week.
  • “We need to deploying the whole medical community rather than one or two entities,” Owen says. “This is a wartime like we’ve never seen before and we aren’t treating this as wartime. The entire medical community needs to be out distributing vaccines.”
  • “When you have 100,000 doses coming into the county, there ought to be enough distribution capability to get that in people’s arms in one day, not five or seven days as we are seeing right now,” Owen says. “This is an all-hands-on-deck situation and all independent physician groups, hospital groups, pharmacies and yes the National Guard will be needed. There is no way that we can handle the volume that will soon come to the market in the next 45 days as [drug companies] provide more vaccines.”
  • Owen praises existing efforts to distribute vaccines including the mass events sponsored by Atrium and Novant at local venues. But he notes “there needs to be 10 times as much effort underway.” Those special clinics aren’t operating 24-7 as he believes should be occurring.
  • The physician adds that it’s not a financial issue for Tryon Medical, which won’t cover its costs because the federal reimbursement for the vaccine is nominal. “This isn’t about advertising, market share, price wars or transparency. This is about the health of the dadgum nation. All those petty things need to be put aside.”
  • Concern that many people won’t take the vaccine also can be alleviated if physicians were more involved because  they engender more trust than hospitals and the government, Owen says.