Thursday's announcement marks the third time the administration has moved up the calendar for eligibility, and the changes also affect the second phase of Group 4, which can now sign up for appointments starting March 31.
Gov. Cooper announces expansion of vaccine eligibility
"We aren't there yet, but in the next couple of months, we will have enough supply for everyone who wants a vaccine to get one," Cooper said. "When that happens, each of us is going to have to talk with our friends and family who are hesitating about getting vaccinated and convince them to do it.
"North Carolina has continued to move through its vaccine phases quickly and equitably, and we are on track to meet the timeline outlined by President Biden's announcement," a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said earlier this month. "Our vaccine providers have stepped up the plate and continue to exhaust our vaccine supply each week. We are looking forward to increased supply of COVID vaccine from the federal government so North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner and meet our goals to provide equitable access to vaccinations in every community in the state."
The remaining members of Group 4 includes people that work in chemical plants, retail workers, hotel employees, communications and information technology employees, people who work on national security systems, energy workers, people who work in financial services, people who work with hazardous materials, employees in laundromats and sanitation workers, public works employees, housing and real estate employees, and water and wastewater treatment staff.
Teenagers ages 16 and 17 will also qualify for a vaccine under the move to Group 5. However, currently the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine authorized for emergency use in people under the age of 18. NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state will work with people in that age group to let them know what providers are offering the Pfizer vaccine.
"We are very fortunate to now have three tested, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that keep people out of the hospital and prevent death from this virus," said Cohen. "With improving supplies, North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner and meet our goals to provide equitable access to vaccinations in every community in the state."
The opening of Group 5 in two weeks, moreover also means North Carolina is well ahead of schedule of meeting President Joe Biden's goal of all adults being eligible for a vaccine by May 1.
Biden, during his first formal news conference of his presidency on Thursday, doubled his original goal by pledging that the nation will administer 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of his first 100 days in office.