More members of Group Four will have access to COVID-19 vaccinations March 17, Gov. Roy Cooper said this afternoon.
Cooper and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen made the announcement this afternoon in a press conference. Beginning on March 17, people in Group Four who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk of serious illness and people who live in certain congregate settings will be eligible for vaccination. The rest of Group Four, which includes other essential workers will become eligible April 7.
NCDHHS is in constant contact with providers across the state and surveys both their vaccine capacity and supply, Cohen said. The state was able to update its timeline based on provider feedback and expected supply. As with previous eligibility changes, some vaccine providers may not be ready to open to Group Four on March 17 if they are still experiencing high demand for vaccines in Groups One through Three.
“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 Secretary 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.”
Nursing homes may begin allowing “responsible” indoor visits as soon as plans are in place, Cooper said.
More than 1.1 million North Carolinians have been fully vaccinated as the state works with local health departments and providers to distribute this vaccine quickly and equitably. While supply is still limited, the increased federal allocation of doses is helping providers administer vaccines to more people.
North Carolina has continued to emphasize equity in the vaccine distribution process. In the last four weeks, more than 20 percent of the state’s first doses have been administered to black North Carolinians.
The announcement was the second major COVID-19 development in Raleigh this week.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper and Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger announced a compromise that will allow students statewide to return to the classroom. Cooper vetoed a previous bill from the General Assembly that would have required schools to reopen.
Berger and state Republicans argued that the blanket approach to school closures was unfair to systems where the coronavirus had minimal effect.
Under the compromise bill, school systems have to submit a policy to NCDHHS before opening, although the governor will have the final say on whether systems can open under their proposals. Individual school systems will still have the option of shutting down in case of emergencies.
Virtual instruction will still be offered, but schools will have the option of opening under COVID-19 safe guidelines. The state also set aside $500,000 to fund reporting and data collection from the schools to NCDHHS.
Rising vaccination rates and lower numbers of cases played a role in the decision to move toward reopening. School systems have three weeks from the signing of the bill into law to formulate and submit their reopening plans.