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WEB EXCLUSIVE With each day that passes, and the number of people getting the COVID vaccine rises, the more hopeful the future looks. As of March 16, 2,102,433 people have gotten their first COVID vaccine shot, and 3,455,805 people have received both shots in North Carolina. Compared to the number of people that have tested positive for coronavirus since last March (over a full year ago now)—889,310 people—it’s a sure sign that things are finally starting to look up.
Additionally, after a few hiccups at the beginning (and a lack of doses), the state seems to be moving swiftly through the planned vaccination rollout. Just this week, Gov. Cooper announced that certain individuals in Group 4 are now eligible to get the vaccine, specifically, those who are 16 to 64 years old with immunocompromising medical conditions or who live in close group settings. “This move to Group 4 is good news,” said Cooper. “I know there are many efforts across the state getting vaccines to people as quickly and fairly as possible, and I want our providers to know that their work is making all the difference.”
With all that said, there’s still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the COVID vaccine. Who can get vaccinated now? When can the general public get vaccinated? What are the side effects? Below, we try to answers those frequently asked questions and more, with the hope that—soon enough—we’ll all be able to get the vaccine, and life can return to a semblance of normal.
Who can get vaccinated right now?
Groups 1, 2, 3 and part of Group 4 are currently able to get the COVID vaccine. Group 1 includes health care workers and long-term care staff and residents; Group 2 encompasses anyone 65 or older (regardless of health status or living situation); and Group 3 consists of frontline essential workers across various industries, including school and child care workers, government and community service workers, healthcare and public health workers, public safety workers, food and agriculture workers, and more. People in Group 4 who are now eligible to get the vaccine include those who are 16 to 64 years old with immunocompromising medical conditions or who live in close group settings.
When can the rest of Group 4 get the vaccine?
The remainder of people who fall in Group 4 will be able to get the vaccine on Wednesday, April 7. Essential workers who were not yet vaccinated will also be eligible, including those working in sectors such as energy, commercial facilities, financial services, hazardous materials, public works, residential facilities, water and wastewater, among others.
When can Group 5 get the vaccine?
A date for Group 5, which includes any adult who wants to get the vaccine, has yet to be determined, as supplies are currently limited. However, President Biden says that there should be enough product to vaccinate every adult in the U.S. by the end of May. Visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines for updates.
How do I find out what group I’m in?
NC DHHS has an easy-to-use tool for finding your spot in the state’s vaccine rollout plan. Visit findmygroup.nc.gov to determine what group you’re in.
Which vaccines are currently available in North Carolina, and what is the difference between them?
North Carolina started the vaccine rollout in January with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Both require two shots; the Pfizer vaccine, 21 days apart and the Moderna vaccine 28 days apart. The Pfizer vaccine, which is approved for those 16 and older, is 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection, while the Moderna vaccine, which is approved for those 18 and older, is 94.1% effective.
Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the FDA in late February. Doses arrived in North Carolina in early March, though only select locations are offering it so far. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot and has proven to be 66% protective against moderate to severe COVID infection and 85% effective in protecting against severe disease.
What are the side effects of the vaccine?
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines include side effects such as injection-site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain and fever, all of which are most common after the second dosage.
Those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine reported side effects including injection-site pain, redness and swelling; headaches; fatigue; muscle aches; nausea; and fever.
How do I make a vaccine appointment in North Carolina?
After finding your group through the NC DHHS “find your spot to take your shot” tool, you’ll be directed to the NC DHHS Vaccine Finder. Simply type in your ZIP code, city or current location to find the closest vaccine providers to you.
You can also call North Carolina’s COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at 888.675.4567.
Additionally, the Wake County Division of Public Health is giving out the vaccine (to eligible groups) by appointment only. Make an appointment by calling the 24-hour vaccination hot line at 919.250.1515, or by filling out the online form at covid19.wakegov.com/vaccine.
Since there are only a small number of vaccines available, many locations are booked with appointments, are on a waitlist or don’t have anymore vaccines in stock. Keep checking vaccination sites regularly for updates, be patient, and remember to practice the 3 W’s while you wait to get the vaccine.
What are the post-vaccination guidelines?
The CDC says those who are fully vaccinated can gather safely with other people who have been fully vaccinated—without masks or physical distancing. Fully vaccinated people are also safe to visit with unvaccinated people, so long as those who are not yet vaccinated are at a low risk of severe COVID-19 and everyone is wearing a mask. However, those who are vaccinated should be cautious around those who are unvaccinated and are high-risk.
We’re almost at the finish line folks. We can’t wait to see you on the other side. Until then, be safe; be careful; and get the vaccine as soon as you are eligible!
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