State officials announce vaccines will open to part of Group 4 next week

Dr. Mandy Cohen said vaccine supply is increasing into N.C. every week, meaning more groups can open in the vaccination queue. (Port City Daily/Courtesy NC Department Health and Humans Services socials)

Vaccine groups are opening at a quicker pace than expected.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced he will open part of Group 4 one week earlier for folks who want a vaccine. On March 17, the queue expands to folks with high-risk conditions, people who are homeless and others in congregate living facilities, such as jails.

The rest of Group 4 essential workers will open on April 7, according to Cooper.


“Increased vaccine supply is one reason we are opening it up,” he said.

He also said having more vaccine providers has helped ensure vaccines can be distributed in a timely fashion.

Officials confirmed supply has been increasing from the federal government, not to mention the addition of vaccines going to federally backed providers, pharmacies and sites — like the FEMA one set up in Greensboro for the next eight weeks, which will administer over 100,000 shots.

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N.C. Department of Health and Human Services secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, reminded that supply will especially ramp up at the beginning of April when more of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be coming.

“Week over week we are getting vaccine out quickly,” she said. “Vaccines arrive Wednesday and then by the following Monday or Tuesday all first doses are gone.”

Cohen said the state has followed CDC guidelines in determining each group’s breakdown. Some have questioned why folks with higher-risk medical conditions weren’t allowed to get vaccinated sooner than Group 4.

“We looked at highest risks and exposures, and both of those factors showed it was very clear to go with healthcare workers and those in longterm health settings first,” Cohen said. “They’re the most medically frail.”

She also said they followed the state’s data to determine who to open to next. Since it showed 80% of deaths were affecting the 65-and-up crowd, that seemed most reasonable, according to Cohen.

“It’s not a perfect cut off,” she added, speaking on how to determine who went in which group.

Those with high-risk medical conditions in Group 4 include:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Diabetes type 1 or 2
  • A heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure  
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from: immune deficiencies, HIV, taking chronic steroids or other immune weakening medicines, history of solid organ blood or bone marrow transplant
  • Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, including Down Syndrome
  • Liver disease, including hepatitis
  • Neurologic conditions (dementia, schizophrenia)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Overweight or obesity 
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia
  • Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)

“We know this is a large group, and we are appreciative that this will take us some time to get through this group,” Cohen said.

Originally slated to open March 24, Group 4 will open one year to the day that the governor first shut down the state and put in place numerous executive orders because of Covid-19.

To date in North Carolina, there have been 879,825 cases out of more than 10.5 million completed tests. Of the positive cases, 11,622 have died. March numbers continue to decline, with only 2,500 new cases reported March 11, as compared to the last peak day on February 3 of 12,079 cases.

North Carolina has fully vaccinated more than 1 million people across the state.


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