Smokers, Cancer Survivors, Pregnant Women Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine in North Carolina

Maura Wozniak poses for a picture on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, in Huntersville, N.C. Wozniak, a 42-year-old mother of 2 has cystic fibrosis and also has undergone lung transplants and has been moved into group 4, just ahead of the general public receive the COVID-19 vaccination. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

By Michael McElroy

March 17, 2021

State officials added subcategories to the next phase of vaccine rollout, focusing on North Carolinians at high risk of COVID-19 complications. 

If you are an 18-year-old with chronic asthma, a 45-year old cancer survivor, a 22-year-old with diabetes, a smoker or are pregnant, you are now eligible for the COVID vaccine in North Carolina. 

Starting today, the state added some subcategories of Group 4 to the vaccine rollout plan, meaning that anyone under 65 who has underlying health conditions can make an appointment for a vaccination. 

Anyone living in close group settings, like prisons or homeless shelters, is also eligible now. (The rest of Group 4, including college students living in dorms and in Greek Housing, will be eligible on April 7.)

Read More: Vaccines Are Rolling Out in NC, But You Need Those Masks

The partial move to Group 4 came a week earlier than planned as the federal government increases its allotments to the states and as North Carolina continues to get high marks, so far at least, for a relatively efficient roll out. The state also leads the nation in reporting the racial and ethnic data of vaccine recipients, allowing NC leaders to see who is, and who isn’t, getting access.

But, just because you are now eligible doesn’t mean you’ll get an appointment right away. With demand still outpacing supply, people who have been eligible for weeks are still struggling to get appointments, especially in heavily populated areas.

But for people willing, or able, to drive a bit, many rural health clinics have lots of open appointments every day. So if your county is jammed, try the surrounding areas. You can call the county health departments directly or visit their websites.

So far, 2.1 million people have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the latest state data, while 1.28 million have been fully vaccinated. 

The state has administered 94%of the allotted vaccinations, the data says. 

A federal vaccine site opened in Greensboro this month with plans to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day for the next eight weeks.  Appointments are hard to come by, but you can sign up by going to or by calling the COVID-19 Vaccine Help Center at 1-888-675-4567.

People in Groups 1, 2, and 3 are eligible for the vaccine right now in North Carolina, which includes those over the age of 65, frontline essential workers, and health care workers.  You can find out what group you’re in, find vaccination sites and more at the NC DHHS website here.

Amid the good news of vaccinations, however, comes the bad news that new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina remain high compared to last summer. The state reported nearly 2,000 new cases Wednesday, and the percentage of tests returning positive bounced slightly to 5.6%. Considered a key metric for tracking the spread of the dangerous virus, public health experts don’t want that number to go higher than 5%. 

Since the pandemic began last March, the virus has killed 11,757 people in North Carolina. 


  • Michael McElroy

    Michael McElroy is Cardinal & Pine's political correspondent. He is an adjunct instructor at UNC-Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media, and a former editor at The New York Times.

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