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North Carolina begins rolling out the coronavirus vaccine to Groups 1 and 2.
The one thing we’ve all been waiting for since March has finally arrived in North Carolina—the coronavirus vaccine. North Carolina started receiving doses from the federal government in December, with health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long-term care staff slated to be vaccinated first under the state’s vaccination distribution plan—which has been consistently updated since it was first released in October.
North Carolina moved into the next phase of the vaccine distribution plan in early January, which includes adults 65 years and older, regardless of health status or living situation. Group 3 includes front-line essential workers, defined by the CDC as “workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.”
Adults 16 to 64 years old with high-risk medical conditions who are at increased risk of severe illness will be next to receive the vaccine, including those diagnosed with conditions like obesity, sickle cell disease, chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Also eligible in the vaccine plan’s Group 4 are incarcerated individuals, people living in shelters or other group-living settings, and anyone who is deemed an essential worker by the CDC—construction workers; public health workers; and those working in public safety, food service, finance, information technology and communications, energy, legal and media sectors.
Soon after Group 4 receives the vaccine, anyone who wants to be vaccinated will be eligible. NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen says that supplies are still very limited, so it could be awhile before the average North Carolinian gets vaccinated—possibly as late as spring. However, Gov. Roy Cooper has mobilized the NC National Guard to “provide support to local health providers as we continue to increase the pace of vaccinations,” he said in a tweet on Jan. 5.
The Cardinal at North Hills, a luxury retirement community, was one of the first retirement communities in the state to get the Moderna vaccine. Executive Director Tom Ford says that they received the vaccine through CVS and distributed over 300 doses to their residents and employees on Jan. 5.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at subzero temperatures (minus 70 degrees Celsius), the Moderna vaccine only has to be kept at negative 20 degrees Celsius, which is closer to the temperature of an average freezer. More hospitals and other facilities will have the capabilities of storing and distributing the Moderna vaccine.
Ford says that CVS will be holding two additional clinics at The Cardinal—one 30 days from Jan. 5 to distribute the second dose and to anybody who missed the first dose, and another one 30 days after to distribute the second dose to the second batch of residents and employees.
Additionally, NCDHHS announced the state partnered with Honeywell, Atrium Health, Panthers owner Tepper Sports & Entertainment, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway to hold mass vaccination events at large-scale venues such as the Panthers stadium, the speedway and possibly the Spectrum Center. They aim to administer at least 1 million vaccinations by July 4.
On Friday, Jan. 29, Johnson & Johnson announced that its COVID-19 vaccine (a single-dose shot) is 66% effective at preventing “moderate to severe courses of COVID-19” and keeping people from going to the hospital or dying. Cohen expects that the vaccine will receive emergency authorization by the end of February, a crucial step in accelerating North Carolina’s vaccination distribution.
NCDHHS also partnered with 14 health systems, health departments and community centers in 13 NC counties to roll out more than 45,000 vaccines. The state has already administered over 1 million doses, and expects to receive about 145,000 doses of the vaccine each week for the next three weeks. You can keep track of how many NC residents have received the vaccination on the NCDHHS COVID-19 dashboard.
While waiting to get the vaccine, Cooper and Cohen advise everyone to continue wearing masks, washing your hands, avoiding crowds and staying home if you can. “Our top priority is helping local health departments distribute vaccines as quickly and equitably as possible, but this virus is spreading rapidly,” Cooper tweeted on Jan. 12. “To save lives, we have to wear our masks, stay socially distant and follow the safety protocols in place.”
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