Breast cancer patient expresses concern for high-risk people in need of COVID-19 vaccine

Wanting the vaccine but unable to get it

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - North Carolina’s new vaccine guidelines were a victory for 67-year-old Darylene Finkelstein who’s undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer.

“Party time! I was very excited for me,” she said.

Her excitement didn’t last long.

“I felt horrible whenever I realized that all of my friends under 65 are not going to be able to get it and that is a lot of the members of our group and a lot of other people who are living through any kind of cancer treatment that causes them to be immunocompromised.”

On Thursday, N.C. health officials changed the current vaccine eligibility phases to groups. One of those changes was making the vaccine available to people 65 years and older.

Finkelstein lives in South Carolina but receives her treatments in Mecklenburg County which is why she is eligible under the N.C. guidelines.

The new vaccination structure includes 5 groups, as listed on the NCDHHS website:

Group 1: Health care workers & Long-Term Care staff and residents

  • Health care workers with in-person patient contact
  • Long-term care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and continuing care retirement communities

Group 2: Older adults

  • Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation

Group 3: Frontline essential workers

  • The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19

Group 4: Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness

  • Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID-19 such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation
  • 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
  • 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, public safety (e.g., engineers) and public health workers

Group 5: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination

Finkelstein is concerned because many of the people she knows who are high-risk are younger than 65 and are in Group 4.

She says if they are exposed to COVID-19 it could make their current condition worse which is why she says they need the vaccine ASAP.

“That’s why it’s really important that we don’t get COVID because we would have to stop our treatment for probably a month or more and that would give the cancer cells and opportunity to continue growing then,” she said.

Novant Health officials said getting the vaccine to other groups is a matter of timing and supply.

“We share those frustrations and my hope is that as the number of vaccines come in and that goes up that we’ll be moving into those phases as quickly as possible,” said Dr. David Priest with Novant Health.

Finkelstein is already working on getting her appointment, but in the meantime she’s sharing this message with others who are still waiting.

“Keep looking for that ray of light,” she said.

North Carolina is currently offering the vaccine to people in Groups 1 and 2.

If you have any questions about where you are in groups 1-5 check with your health care provider.

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