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Gov. Cooper moves some members of Group 4 ahead to get COVID-19 vaccine sooner in North Carolina

Updated: Mar. 11, 2021 at 7:33 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Gov. Roy Cooper is moving some members of Group 4 ahead to get the COVID-19 vaccine sooner in North Carolina.

For right now, only some members of Group 4 will be eligible to receive their vaccine beginning March 17, a week earlier than anticipated:

Group 4 members eligible starting March 17:

  • People with medical conditions that put them at higher-risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
  • People living in some congregate settings that increase risk of exposure to COVID-19.

The March 17 members of Group 4 includes anyone with conditions that have been identified by the CDC as increasing risk for severe COVID-19 illness:

The March 17 members of Group 4 also include 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:

The additional members of Group 4 (essential workers who are not yet vaccinated) will be eligible to get the vaccine starting April 7. This group is different from frontline essential workers.

Group 4 members eligible starting April 7:

  • Those working in the essential sectors identified in Group 3 who did not meet the criteria for frontline. Essential sectors identified in Group 3 include critical manufacturing, education, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety and transportation. See Deeper Dive Group 3.
  • Those working in additional essential sectors as defined below.
  • Chemical (including workers in petrochemical plants, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceutical facilities, consumer products)
  • Commercial facilities (including retail workers, hotel workers)
  • Communications and information technology (service repair dispatchers, data center operators)
  • Defense industrial base (including workers supporting essential services to meet national security commitments)
  • Energy (including electric, petroleum, natural and propane gas workers)
  • Financial services (including workers who maintain systems for processing financial transactions, workers needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services)
  • Hazardous materials (including nuclear facilities workers, workers managing medical waste)
  • Hygiene products and services (including laundromats, sanitation workers)
  • Public works and infrastructure support services (including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, workers supporting parks)
  • Residential facilities, housing and real estate
  • Water and wastewater (including staff at water authorities, wastewater treatment facilities, water sampling and monitoring)
  • OTHER PEOPLE LIVING IN GROUP LIVING SETTINGS - This population includes students living in dormitories or other group living settings (e.g., fraternity or sorority houses), who are not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.

The full 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 who are not yet vaccinated.

As with previous statewide group eligibility changes, some providers in some parts of the state may not be ready to move into Group 4 by March 17, and officials say they want them to make sure they are still meeting the demand in Groups 1-3.

Efficiency in North Carolina

North Carolina is moving in Group 4 weeks ahead of schedule. State leadership says this is partially because of the expected supply of the vaccine increasing over the next several weeks.

Governor Cooper also said the state surveyed vaccine providers and many answered they were ready to start vaccinating the next group.

“We’ve heard from providers who really want to go ahead and start opening this up,” said Cooper.

North Carolina’s given out 2.9 million shots in the state according to North Carolina’s data dashboard.

“Week over week, we are getting vaccine out very quickly,” said Dr. Cohen at a Thursday press conference.

But only 18.1 percent of people in the state are partially vaccinated. 11.2 percent are fully vaccinated.

CDC data shows we’re in the bottom third of all states for percentage of population fully and partially vaccinated.

“We’re trying to get more visibility rom the CDC to understand what goes into make those numbers up,” said Dr. Cohen.

CDC data also shows that North Carolina’s used only 75 percent of vaccine administered but the North Carolina’s data dashboard says it’s 89 percent. Dr. Cohen said there be many reasons for the discrepancy, something they’re trying to get worked out.

“When we talk to our providers, they are getting out those vaccines very quickly. Just like you were trying to see why the CDC numbers and our numbers don’t always line up,” she said.

But for many it wasn’t quick enough. We know that there has been state line crossing for vaccines. North Carolinians with underlying health conditions traveled to South Carolina to get their shot, like Hannah Caddell.

“What we’ve seen is my ER visits have increased which is a sign my health is decreasing. I’m having more episode of pain. I’ve spent really the last year in a bubble,” she said.

Disappointed it took this long to prioritize people with underlying health conditions, this was her message to state leadership.

“The southern girl in me wants to say thank you. But I won’t. I will say you’ve done a huge disservice to the people who elected you,” she said.

Dr. Cohen explained that when deciding who was prioritized, it came to who was most at risk of getting it and having a severe case and who was most likely to be exposed to it.

Other groups already being vaccinated

Last week, Cooper moved up eligibility for everyone in Group 3. Frontline essential workers in North Carolina became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on March 3.

Frontline workers were originally scheduled to be eligible on March 10, following teachers, school staff and daycare employees.

More than 1.1 million North Carolinians have been fully vaccinated as the state works with local health departments and providers to distribute this vaccine quickly and equitably. While supply is still limited, the increased federal allocation of doses is helping providers administer vaccines to more people.

North Carolina has continued to emphasize equity in the vaccine distribution process. In the last four weeks, more than 20 percent of the state’s first doses have been administered to Black North Carolinians. On Sunday, Bloomberg News recognized North Carolina as the leader in the nation for reporting demographic data on who has been vaccinated down to the county level.

North Carolina received its first shipment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorized for emergency use.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a “viral vector vaccine.” It uses a different method than both Moderna and Pfizer, which are mRNA vaccines. Click here for more information.

Educators, school staff, childcare providers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade became eligible to receive the vaccine on Feb. 24.

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.

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