During a news conference Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced the state would move into vaccination group 4.1 on March 17. Previously, the governor had said the state was expected to move into the phase on March 24.
That includes people with medical conditions that put them at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 illness and people living in some congregate settings that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Cooper added that all other personnel in Group 4, including essential workers not yet vaccinated, will be able to get their shots beginning April 7.
That list 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.
"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 NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy 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."
Dr. Sophia Smith, a two-time cancer survivor, got her vaccine earlier this week through her role as a health-care worker.
"I didn't realize that there was like this cloud around. But once I found out that I was eligible and I received the vaccine, it felt like this whole cloud had been lifted. And there is light at the end of the tunnel for all of us," she said.
Last week, North Carolina received more than 300,000 first doses of vaccines, including 83,000 doses of the newly authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This week, however, the state received no new doses of the one-shot vaccine, and NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state will not see a significant amount until April.
Earlier this month, the state also exceeded expectations and opened vaccinations to all frontline essential workers a week earlier than expected on March 3. Since then, at least 525,000 people have been vaccinated statewide.
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An estimated 3.8 million North Carolinians under the age of 65 have underlying conditions. While some of those people have already been vaccinated as residents in longterm care facilities and frontline essential workers, many more will now be added to the vaccine pool -- far exceeding the number of available doses in the state.
The new guidance will also allow incarcerated people and people living in homeless shelters and migrant worker camps to get vaccinated.
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Still, Cooper and Cohen remain confident that vaccinations will continue at current pace, with approximately 225,000 first doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines sent to providers statewide each week. That's in addition to the new FEMA vaccination site in Greensboro this week and the state's partnership with the federal retail pharmacy program, neither of which use vaccines from the state's allocation.