Gone are the muddled phase 1(a), phase 1(b) designations and so forth. In their place is a refined listing of groups in numerical order.
"Getting vaccines across North Carolina into arms is the No. 1 priority right now," Gov. Roy Cooper said on a call with local leaders Thursday morning.
Group 1: Health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff and residents, health care workers with in-person patient contact, long-term care staff and residents - people in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and continuing care retirement communities.
Group 2: Older adults -- Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.
Currently the state is in Group 2, as Cooper and NCDHHS announced Thursday that vaccine providers that are ready to expand may vaccinate all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older.
NCDHHS' Your Spot, Your Shot information
"Doctors, hospitals and local health departments are working hard to get people vaccinated. There may be a wait, but when it's your spot, take your shot to stay healthy and help us get back to being with family and friends," said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen.
Group 3: Frontline essential workers. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.
Group 4: Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.
This means anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID-19 such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation. Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function. Essential workers not yet vaccinated also fall under this group. The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety (e.g., engineers) and public health workers.
Group 5: Everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination
Have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Send them to us here
COVID-19 vaccinations are free of charge, regardless of whether or not people have insurance.However, most doctors cannot provide COVID-19 vaccines in their office at this time. Individuals who are eligible and would like to receive the vaccine must make an appointment with their local health department or hospital.
SEE ALSO: Where can you get a COVID-19 vaccine in NC? Tracking availability and progress
The change in phasing comes after North Carolina was identified as one of the worst states in the country for vaccination rate and Republican state leaders criticized the pace of vaccine rollout.
At a hearing Tuesday, Cohen told lawmakers that some counties are performing well while others are lagging behind and that the proper time to critique crisis management is not during the crisis.
"The administration had ten months to draft and refine a plan to distribute a vaccine that everybody in the world knew was in development, but they didn't even effectively plan for something as simple as what to do when too many people call asking to schedule their vaccination," Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, who chaired Tuesday's hearing, said, "The status quo is completely unacceptable, and the failure of the county-centric model was known before planning even began."
On Thursday, UNC Health applauded the announcement that North Carolina will begin vaccinating those 65 years of age and older.
"We encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated when it's their turn," UNC Health said in a statement. "We continue to see too many older adults who are getting really sick and ending up in our hospitals. UNC Health's mission is to improve the health of all North Carolinians, and these vaccines are important tools in the fight to defeat this virus.
"UNC Health will work quickly to make the necessary changes to our screening and scheduling process so we are able to accommodate as many qualifying patients as soon as possible. Our ability to create new appointments is directly tied to the supply of vaccines."