CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - With another COVID-19 vaccine authorized, North Carolina leaders are working to vaccinate more people.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that frontline essential workers will be eligible for their vaccine earlier than expected -- on March 3. The state will begin expanding vaccine eligibility to Group 4 on March 24.
“All frontline essential workers in Group 3 will be available to receive the vaccine starting tomorrow,” Cooper said Tuesday. Those frontline workers were originally scheduled to be eligible on March 10, following teachers, school staff and daycare employees.
The state will vaccinate those in Group 4 in phases, starting with people who have a medical condition that puts them at higher risk as well and those living in a congregate setting.
“This is a really exciting moment,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen. “A third COVID-19 vaccine means North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner and keep people out of the hospital and prevent deaths from this pandemic.”
NCDHHS describes frontline essential workers in Group 3 as those who work in:
- Critical manufacturing
- Essential goods
- Foods and agriculture
- Government and community services
- Health care and public health
- Public safety and transportation
“The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly,” Cooper said. “Our essential frontline workers have remained on the job throughout this pandemic and I am grateful for their work.”
Group 4 includes anyone 16-64 years old with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe disease from COVID-19, people living in close group settings and essential workers (Please note these are different from Group 3 frontline essential workers).
This population includes anyone with conditions that have been identified by the CDC as increasing risk for severe COVID-19 illness:
- Asthma (moderate to severe)
- Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Cystic fibrosis
- Dementia or other neurologic condition
- Diabetes type 1 or 2
- Down Syndrome
- 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
- Liver disease, including hepatitis
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Overweight or obesity
- 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)
People living in a close group setting includes anyone who is living in congregate or close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function, including:
- People experiencing homelessness or living in a homeless shelter
- Correctional facility, such as jail or prison
North Carolina will receive more than 80,000 doses of first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized for emergency use this past weekend.
“It’s exciting. It’s definitely the next step to going back to normal,” said Adrian Campellan who is a sous chef based in Charlotte. He says he definitely plans to get the vaccine as he has to speak with customers and fellow employees while at work.
“A lot of time you get people you know or want to talk to the chef and you go out there and you go ‘ugh what do I do,’” he said. “It’s hard to communicate with the mask on. We do what we do to keep everyone safe. Now with that vaccine, we can get back to normal.”
Other business owners are excited to tell their employees the good news, like the owners of the NoDa Company Store. They converted their space to a small grocery in April to help people safely gather essential groceries in a less crowded environment. They’ve also opened their patio for drinks this summer. Both things will make their employees eligible to receive a vaccine starting on March 3.
“I know there’s that extra comfort level. You need to come to work but you need to feel safe as well. We’ve been hoping it will be soon,” said owner, Scott Lindsley.
Educators, school staff, childcare providers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24.
Those eligible will be staff in childcare centers and homes, head start programs, preschool and pre-k programs, traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools. This includes teachers, custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and any other staff working in those schools.
The state anticipated that to be about 240,000 people.
“This is important. Essential workers are just that, essential,” Cooper said. “They have worked throughout this pandemic and we know that educators can continue to work safely even before the vaccine being administered as long as schools follow state guidelines.”
It’s another step to get children and teachers back into the classrooms safely.
As of Monday, more than 2.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in North Carolina.
Cooper said that frontline healthcare workers, those 65 and older and staff and residents at long-term living facilities will still continue to receive the vaccine.
State health officials say that 80 percent of the coronavirus-related deaths in North Carolina are people 65 years and older.
“It is critical to get this age group vaccinated,” Cooper said. “People in this group are still getting first and second vaccinations. That will keep happening even after the next phase starts.”