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Here's what you need to know about vaccinations in Orange County


Pharmacist and 1995 UNC alumna Sue Patel prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 in the Friday Center on Chapel Hill.

UPDATE March 26, 11:33 a.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that the rest of Group 4, including essential workers not in Group 3 and those in congregate housing, will be able to get the vaccine starting March 31. This is a week and a half earlier than expected.

All adults will be eligible to get the vaccine on April 7, Cooper said.

UPDATE March 11, 3:42 p.m.: Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday that members of Group 4 who are have medical conditions that put them at a higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness will be able to get the vaccine starting March 17. This is one week earlier than previously planned. 

More Group 4 members will be eligible for the vaccine on April 7, Cooper said. This group includes anyone 16-64 years old who are high-risk, people living in close group settings and essential workers not yet vaccinated. 

UPDATE March 2, 2:21 p.m.: The rest of Group 3 frontline essential workers are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 3, one week earlier than a previous plan, Gov. Roy Cooper announced at a Tuesday news briefing.

People with medical conditions will be the first of Group 4 vaccinations starting March 24, Cooper said.

North Carolina will start vaccinating school and childcare workers on Feb. 24 as the state enters Group 3 of its vaccine distribution plan.

The state plans to vaccinate the rest of Group 3, which includes frontline essential workers, on March 10.

Here's what you need to know about the shift into a new vaccination group: 

Who is eligible on Feb. 24?

The Feb. 24 vaccine rollout encompasses public, private/non-public and charter school workers, as well as workers in any childcare facility. This includes non-faculty roles such as school transportation drivers, food service workers, custodial staff and school support staff.

Stacie Boyer, assistant principal at Ephesus Elementary School, said she sees school workers getting the vaccine as a big step forward.

“I think the vaccine is a way for teachers to come prepared mentally and emotionally to give everything they can to these sweet little people who have been out of our building for almost a year,” Boyer said.

Ephesus Elementary, along with the rest of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, will see some students return to in-person learning on April 19. Boyer said most staff at the school have been able to get a vaccination appointment by that date, but the majority of those will only have enough time to get the first round of the vaccine.

“I would hope for more push to be able to get more vaccinated more quickly if at all possible,” Boyer said.

Who is eligible on March 10?

Though Group 3 includes all frontline essential workers, only school and childcare workers can begin receiving vaccines on Feb. 24. The plan is to make the rest of the frontline essential workers eligible starting March 10.

Frontline essential workers are people who must be present in-person at their place of work and work in one of eight essential sectors laid out by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services:

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  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Education
  • Essential Goods
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Government and Community Services
  • Health Care and Public Health
  • Public Safety
  • Transportation

NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the reason for the gradual rollout of Group 3 was due to a limited supply of vaccines.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able on March 10 to make more of our frontline workers eligible, but we really have to look at the supply at that time and then make further decisions,” Cohen said at a Feb. 10 coronavirus briefing.

How is vaccination going within Orange County?

As of Tuesday, over 26,000 first doses of the vaccine had been administered in Orange County. Of those, over 4,000 were administered by the Orange County Health Department.

Todd McGee, Orange County community relations director, said he is confident in how vaccine distribution is being handled within the department.

“Any vaccine we get in we generally get out in about a week,” McGee said. “Our problem is there’s just not a lot of vaccines.”

The department has a waitlist of 10,392 people from Groups 1 and 2 as of Feb. 22. Any school or childcare worker who signs up to receive the vaccine will be placed at the back of this list. 

“People are signing up on multiple waiting lists, so we imagine we have thousands of people on the waiting list who are no longer needing a shot because they got it somewhere else,” McGee said. “Because of that, we can’t give any estimates on when we’ll get through Groups 1 and 2.”

Orange County has several locations to receive the vaccine, including UNC Health. Other locations can be found using the NCDHHS vaccine provider location tool.


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