NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in an October 2020 briefing with Gov. Roy Cooper. (Image via NC DPS/Treatment by Rebecca Russ) Mandy Cohen
NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen in an October 2020 briefing with Gov. Roy Cooper. (Image via NC DPS/Treatment by Rebecca Russ)

NC’s new coronavirus plan comes with states and the federal government pushing to speed up a sluggish vaccine rollout.

North Carolinians ages 65 and older can now get the coronavirus vaccine, based on a change made Thursday by the NC Department of Health and Human Services. 

The change matches federal guidelines announced this week in order to speed up a sluggish national vaccine rollout

However, in an update Thursday afternoon, NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that newly eligible people should expect a wait before they get their shot. Demand exceeds supply in NC right now.

“That doesn’t mean a vaccine is available for you today, or an appointment is available for you today,” Cohen said. “There’s a limited amount of vaccine. It’s going to take some time for everyone to get their spot.”

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Still, Cohen and other state officials urged eligible North Carolinians to contact their health providers and get in line.

With manufacturers producing the shots at a predictable pace, President-elect Joe Biden had already indicated the feds will be sending out all of their vaccine supply to the states, rather than holding them back for second shots. 

Graphic for Cardinal & Pine by Rebecca Russ

Coronavirus continues to boom across North Carolina, and the percentage of tests returning as positive right now — about 11% — is triple what it should be.

“My directive remains in place: Stay home,” Cohen said.

Gov. Roy Cooper talked about new state protocol in a message to local county commissioners, according to the News & Observer.  

The NC Department of Health and Human Services updated its advice on who is eligible to receive the vaccine Thursday, with those above 65 and health workers now eligible. NC  DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen was expected to address reporters with additional details Thursday afternoon.

The new vaccine protocol broadly expands the pool of recipients in the state, which has lagged others in administering the shot. As of last week, the state began making the shot available to people ages 75 and older, although demand has surpassed supply in most counties with appointments quickly filling up and lines of seniors in their cars showing up at vaccination clinics. 

Coronavirus Vaccine in North Carolina
National Guard soldiers assist by directing those arriving for vaccination appointments at Bojangles Arena in Charlotte, NC, the primary site of vaccine distribution for Mecklenburg County. (Image for Cardinal & Pine by Grant Baldwin)

‘Shots in arms faster…’

State health officials are also planning large-scale vaccination events in 21 of NC’s 100 counties, partnering with local health departments and providers. 

They say that the state is hoping to dispense 45,000 shots at the events to people who are eligible under the NC rollout plan. People do not have to get vaccines in their home counties, they can get one from anywhere in the state provided they are eligible.

“The state will continue to support our local health departments and hospitals to get shots in arms faster,” NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a statement Thursday. “These partners were selected because they were able to rapidly increase the number of vaccines they could deliver as part of this effort.”

According to DHHS, the events would be held in: 

  • Bertie County: Bertie County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Buncombe County: Buncombe County Health Department in partnership with Western North Carolina Community Health Services, and Western Carolina Medical Society 
  • Cabarrus County: Atrium Health
  • Camden County: Camden County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Chatham County: UNC Health 
  • Chowan County: Chowan County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Currituck County: Currituck County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Durham County: Duke Health 
  • Forsyth County: Forsyth County Department of Public Health 
  • Gates County: Gates County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Guilford County: Cone Health 
  • Henderson County: Blue Ridge Community Health Services, Henderson County Department of Public Health, Mountain Area Health Education Center, Pardee Hospital (UNC Health)
  • Hertford County: Hertford County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Johnston County: UNC Health 
  • Madison County: Hot Springs Health Center, Madison County Health Department, Mountain Area Health Education Center 
  • Mecklenburg County: Atrium Health 
  • Orange County: UNC Health 
  • Pasquotank County: Pasquotank County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Perquimans County: Perquimans County Health Department (Albemarle Regional Health Services)
  • Pitt County: Vidant Health 
  • Wake County: UNC REX Healthcare, Duke Raleigh Hospital, and WakeMed in partnership with community-based physician practices, Advance Community Health, NeighborHealth and others

Individuals should contact providers for more information about the events.