MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County health leaders are encouraging everyone over age 75 to get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as it becomes available.
Wednesday, North Carolina health leaders announced the next phase of virus vaccinations, Phase 1b, would begin in North Carolina next week. The next phase will have four groups. Group 1 opens vaccination availability for anyone 75 years or older regardless of medical condition or living situation.
The state’s vaccination plan aligns with new federal recommendations issued last week.
Mecklenburg County health leaders say vaccine supplies are still limited and appointments will be made available as that supply allows. “We will all work to get this vaccine out as soon as possible,” county leaders say.
The main county clinic will be set up Sunday at Bojangles’ Coliseum off E Independence Boulevard in Charlotte, where vaccinations will take place 6 days a week.
This clinic starts on Monday Jan. 4 and is currently only for people in the state’s Phase 1a and is by appointment only. No one can just show up.
The county plans to also do Phase 1B vaccinations at the coliseum at a later time. As far as that goes, officials are still in planning stages.
Logistics of the vaccine storage will make it difficult for county officials to bring clinics into the community.
The county is working on informing residents through churches, community groups and local news. Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris says they will rely on any messaging available to residents, even by being informed through employers.
Harris says she’s hopeful Mecklenburg County will be in Phase 4, which is the phase where anyone is able to get vaccinated, by April 2021.
Harris estimates there’s 20,000 people in the 75+ group of phase 1b. Timing depends on how many doses of the vaccine the county receives and how steady the supply is.
Currently, the state is in Phase 1a, which includes vaccine distribution to health care workers fighting COVID-19 and long term care staff and residents.
- Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, including staff responsible for cleaning and maintenance in those areas
- Health care workers administering vaccine
- Long-term care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities and in adult, family and group homes.
Phase 1b will begin in early January and will include adults 75 years old and older and frontline essential workers. “There is not enough vaccine in phase 1b for everyone to be vaccinated,” Cohen said, which is why distribution will be broken down into groups.
Below are the phases and groups provided by NCDHHS.
- 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. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as first responders (e.g., firefighters and police officers), corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers.
- Group 3: Health care workers and frontline essential workers of any age
Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.
Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:
- 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 living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.
- Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated. The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.
Phase 3: Students
- College and university students
- K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.
Phase 4: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.
“We are just into this,” Gov. Roy Cooper said of vaccine distribution. “We ask people to be as patient as you can.”
As of December 26, more than 63,000 people in North Carolina have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
“All vaccine providers are expected to ensure that vaccine is administered equitably within each group,” NCDHHS says. “NCDHHS has a specific focus on building trust with historically marginalized populations. Longstanding and continuing racial and ethnic injustices in our health care system contribute to lack of trust in vaccines.”
The department says they’re partnering with trusted leaders and organizations to provide accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines to all North Carolinians and ensure equitable access to vaccines. To find FAQs and more vaccine information from NCDHHS, visit yourspotyourshot.nc.gov.