Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first in North Carolina?

RALEIGH, N.C (WTVD) -- At 148 pages long, North Carolina's Vaccination Plan is full of details that spell out who is going to be receiving the vaccine when it is distributed.

The distribution will be broken down into four phases:

  • Phase 1A: Healthcare workers and medical first responders who face a high risk of exposure to the virus. Staff in long-term care settings are also included in this priority group. (Est. population: 140K-161K people)
  • Phase 1B: Residents in long-term care settings, people with two or more chronic illnesses, also known as comorbidities, who live inside and outside of congregate living settings such as jails, prisons, and migrant camps -- including residents of such locations who are over the age of 65, front line workers with two or more comorbidities, and staff in congregate living settings. (Est. population: 587K-790K people)
  • Phase 2: All other residents in congregate living facilities, firefighters and police officers, food packaging, preparation, and processing workers, manufacturing workers, construction workers, transportation workers, some retail and grocery store workers, child care workers, adults with chronic conditions, people over the age of 65, and staff in K-12 schools and colleges/universities. (Est. population: 1.18M-1.57M people)
  • Phase 3: Energy/telecom workers, water/waste/energy operators, all other retail workers, religious leaders and other membership associations, students in K-12 and colleges/universities (Est. population: 574K-767K people)
  • Phase 4: Everyone else not identified in Phases 1-3 (Est. population: 3.6M-4M people)


During Tuesday's COVID-19 update news briefing, Doctor Mandy Cohen and Governor Roy Cooper said North Carolina applied to receive the Pfizer vaccine and expects the first distribution to arrive between December 15-17.

"When you look at the number of vaccines the state is going to receive," said Michelle Ries, interim director of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, "It will not be enough for the estimated 700 to 800,000 thousand individuals or so that fall into the first phase."

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Ries also serves on the state's COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee and spends much of her time working with state health leaders on how to address the vaccine. The group also assists the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services with logistics and vaccine communication.

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According to the plan, a person's employer, congregate living facility, or school will have the responsibility of identifying which phases a person falls into. Additionally, everyone in phase four will identify themselves to medical staff for the vaccine.

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The Pfizer vaccine will be given in two separate doses some 21 days apart.
"If you hear a number such as 80,000 doses, what we really need to think about is that's actually vaccinations because everybody will need two doses to be fully protected," Ries said.

The chief medical director for Duke Regional Hospital, Dr. Adia Ross, said her staff is ready to receive the vaccine when it arrives.

"We've been thinking about this for months," Ross said. "(Duke), as have other healthcare organizations, have been preparing for this for a while and making sure we're staying abreast of the latest developments and what's required."

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A spokesperson for Duke University Health System said employees who fall into these four categories will not be required to take the Covid-19 vaccine, unlike the mandatory influenza vaccine.

Next week Pfizer is scheduled to meet with the FDA on its emergency use authorization prior to the vaccine being rolled out. The week following, Moderna will have their turn. Doctor Cohen is hopeful more North Carolinians will be able to get vaccinated sooner if Moderna is approved for an EUA.

North Carolina's vaccine plan was first introduced in mid-October. However, health experts have been making constant updates and the document remains in draft form.
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