Older people move higher in NC's COVID-19 vaccination line

Published December 31, 2020

By Lynn Bonner

North Carolina has changed its vaccination plan to get more people 75 and older vaccinated sooner.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, head of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, announced the changes at a news conference Wednesday. They also described efforts to keep people from jumping the vaccine line to get shots before it’s their turn.

“We can’t have folks jumping the line and having their family members or friends, board members, donors, jumping the line and importantly, cannot see folks profiting financially,” Cohen said. “These vaccines are free. They’re meant to be free for those who are getting that vaccine. And if we see folks who are trying to profit financially from that, that will not be tolerated.” 

Atrium Health in Charlotte had scheduled non-critical workers for vaccination as part of the first group of recipients despite state guidelines WBTV reported.

Medical personnel who care for people with COVID-19 or clean patient areas are the first to get shots. Vaccinations have started this week for people who live in long-term care facilities and staff in those facilities.

Cooper said he and Cohen have asked state health boards and associations for recommendations on how to enforce vaccine priority rules. Cooper said he talked with legislators about giving medical licensing boards and associations authority to enforce the rules.

The change to North Carolina’s vaccination plan came after a CDC vaccine advisory committee recommended people 75 and older be part of the first wave of people vaccinated.

The state’s new plan puts people 75 and older, no matter where they live or health conditions they have, into group 1 of Phase 1b.

Health care and frontline essential workers 50 and older are in group 2 of Phase 1b, and health care workers and essential workers of any age are in group 3 of Phase 1b.

The plan has four phases. The last phase is for anybody who wants shots and hasn’t already gotten them.

DHHS reported 8,551 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, and 3,339 people with COVID-19 in hospitals on Tuesday.

“Hospitalizations are alarming, with record numbers in the hospital and record numbers in the intensive care unit,” Cohen said. “I’m very, very worried and I’m talking regularly with our hospital leaders.”

Viral spread is critical in most of the state’s counties.

Cohen said the White House task force warned North Carolina that people younger than 40 who met with people outside their immediate households should assume they are infected, even if they don’t have symptoms.

The task force report also advised people older than 65 and people with significant health conditions to not go into any indoor public space where anyone is unmasked and to have their groceries and medications delivered, Cohen said.