Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a press conference this afternoon that all people who fall under Group 3 in the North Carolina COVID-19 vaccination rollout will be eligible for vaccinations beginning Wednesday, March 3, while the most high-risk members of Group 4 will become eligible on March 24.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mecklenburg County Public Health (MCPH) announced that, beginning Thursday, March 4, additional first dose appointments will be available for members of Groups 1-3 for appointment dates that will go from March 10 through the end of the month. Appointments for Group 4 will not yet be made available in Mecklenburg County.
While members of Group 3 that work as educators or staff in schools and child-care facilities have already been eligible for vaccinations, Thursday’s opening for Mecklenburg County appointments will include the remaining members of Group 3, including employees who work in critical manufacturing, essential goods, food and agriculture, government and community services, health care and public health, public safety, and transportation.
More specifically, that includes restaurant workers, first responders, grocery workers, pharmacy workers, meat-packing workers, farm workers, U.S. Postal Office workers, clergy, social workers, mass transit workers and more. Find a more comprehensive list here.
MCPH will continue to work with StarMed Healthcare to provide vaccination doses at Bojangles’ Coliseum. Individuals in Groups 1 and 3 who work in Mecklenburg County and people in Group 2 — those who are 65 years or older — who live in Mecklenburg County can make an appointment beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday on the StarMed website or by calling MCPH’s COVID-19 Hotline at 980-314-9400 (option 3 for English and option 8 for Spanish).
Statewide eligibility for the highest risk members of Group 4 will begin on March 24, though no plans have been made for members of that group in Mecklenburg County.
The state will open Group 4 first for people at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and serious illness resulting from the disease. This includes people with asthma, cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, neurological conditions such as dementia and Down syndrome, people in immunocompromised states and others. It also includes smokers both current and former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. Find a more comprehensive list here.
Cooper also confirmed on Tuesday that 80,000 doses of the third FDA-approved vaccine, a one-shot vaccination from Johnson & Johnson, will be arriving in North Carolina this week. He also confirmed the launch of a FEMA vaccination camp in Greensboro on March 10 that will provide up to 3,000 vaccinations daily for eight weeks. He said the state hopes to bring on more community sites and mobile clinics to reach underserved communities in the coming weeks.
“The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly. But as we’ve said before, we still don’t have enough vaccines,” Cooper stated. “You may have to wait for an appointment even if today’s action means you are eligible to get vaccinated.”
MCPH has created a waitlist for residents unable to book appointments with the county. Private companies such as Atrium Health and Novant Health are also regularly administering vaccine doses, including at mass vaccination events like those that have been held at Bank of America Stadium and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, as of Monday at midnight, the state had administered 2,320,479 total vaccination doses to residents. That total included 1,464,798 first doses and 855,651 second doses. In Mecklenburg County, there have been approximately 111,975 first doses and 69,400 second doses administered to residents.
On Tuesday, Cooper cited a Kaiser Family Foundation report released in late February that showed North Carolina as the top state for having vaccinated residents 65 years old or older. As of Tuesday, about 60% of the state’s senior citizens had been vaccinated, Cooper claimed.
However, one shortcoming of vaccine distribution was highlighted by a North Carolina Justice Center (NCJC) report released on Tuesday: an alarming racial disparity in administering first doses of the vaccine across the state.
The report, “titled Equity, North Carolina, and the Vaccine,” found that despite making up 71% of the North Carolina population, white people made up 78% of those who had received first doses. Comparatively, Black people make up 22% of the state’s population, though they have received less than 15% of the first doses administered in North Carolina.
“Whether it is disparate COVID-19 outcomes due to pre-existing conditions or race-based vaccination disparity, the foundations of both phenomena are rooted in an ideology that assumes some Americans are disposable while others are valued,” wrote William Munn, PhD, senior policy analyst with NCJC’s Health Advocacy Project and author of the report, in a release on Tuesday.
“Only after this dogma is thoroughly removed from the bedrock of American policymaking will we be able to take real steps toward reforming our health-care system, finally addressing the inequities that have cultivated harm, and beginning the process of repairing trust between North Carolina’s Black community and the leaders charged with delivering equitable quality of life outcomes.”
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