North Carolina has redefined its distribution plan to clarify and enforce who first has access to the Covid-19 vaccine, Gov. Roy Cooper announced in a Wednesday press briefing.
Based on the recommendations of leaders from the state’s clinical boards and associations, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has updated and “simplified” its vaccination priority rules.
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The first phase – Phase 1A – is currently underway and includes health care workers who work directly with Covid-19 patients, as well as those who administer the vaccines. Long-term care staff and residents are also included in this phase and started receiving doses Monday.
The next phase – Phase 1B – is expected to commence in early January for adults 75 and older and other frontline essential workers.
However, there are not enough vaccines for everyone in Phase 1B to receive their shots at the same time. For this reason, the state has split this phase into groups, to receive access in the following order:
- Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Health care workers and frontline essential workers 50 years or older (first responders, corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, teachers and school support staff members, and child care workers)
- Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age
Phase 2 will go next and consists of four subgroups.
- Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, regardless of health status or living situation
- Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from Covid, such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation
- Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or in congregate living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function
- Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated (workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing and construction workers, finance and bank tellers, information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety and public health workers)
College and high school students age 16 and up will be able to receive shots in Phase 3. There is not yet a vaccine approved for children.
In the final phase – Phase 4 – anyone else who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen anticipates this will be “well into the spring.”
Cooper explained the state followed “pretty closely” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee’s recommendations, which heavily considered ages based on death statistics. The state is also prioritizing incarcerated people early on due to the high risk of transmission in the congregate settings.
“We ask people to be as patient as you can with your health department officials and your hospital workers,” Cooper said. “These are people who have been fighting this battle now since March. It is a workforce that has been strained, that has been working hard day in, day out, and now they have this logistical issue of having to make sure that people get vaccinated with a complex process.”
In this last press briefing of the year, Cooper took to the podium to report 532,830 total Covid-19 cases to date, 8,551 new cases in the day, 3,339 people in the hospital and 6,729 deaths.
As expected, Cooper said testing was down over Christmas. However, at the same time, the state broke its records for the number of people in the hospital and percent positives.
“Keeping people from getting sick and having to check into hospitals — that’s an urgent priority,” Cooper said.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force is now advising people over 65 or with at least one underlying health condition to avoid indoor spaces where people aren’t wearing masks. The task force also recommends that these people have medicines and groceries delivered.
Cohen said anyone under 40 who gathered beyond their immediate household should assume they became infected with Covid-19 and get tested, regardless of if they are showing symptoms.
“The task force warns that you are dangerous to others and must isolate away from anyone at increased risk for severe disease,” Cohen said.
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