When will the vaccine be widely available in NC? Dr. Cohen says 'think July and August'

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen on Friday expressed optimism that the supply of vaccines will substantially increase by the summer months to allow for widespread vaccinations.

"I'm hopeful for the next few months leading to July we're going to get all of Group 3 and all of Group 4 done," Dr. Cohen told ABC11 in an exclusive interview. "I think we can accelerate a lot here."

Though the state is currently received about 160,000 first doses weekly, Cohen projects the state can handle up to 350,000 first doses administered per week.

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North Carolina's Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen breaks down where the state is in the fight against COVID-19.

"I would love to see a doubling of what is coming to our state. Not 5%, 10% more. I want 100% more and we can handle it."

On February 24, the state will expand eligibility to Group 3, starting with educators and school personnel. The rest of the eligible members of the group, which includes everything from pharmacists to factory workers to public safety, can sign up for appointments starting in March.

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"I think once we're past the next few weeks of giving second doses, we'll be in more of a routine. We have a lot of give in the system and that's without us employing FEMA, resources, without us activating other things we're building and have waiting in the wings."

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As for those teachers and educators, Cohen reiterated her desire to get students back in the classroom safely as soon as possible - with or without a vaccine.

"It's not a once we vaccinate and then we can. The data shows we can have kids and teachers safely in classrooms right now if they're using safety protocols in place and there are studies in NC that show if people are wearing masks and we're doing social distancing, the screenings and cleanings, we see low levels of viral spread in school settings."
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