North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced plans for distributing a COVID19 vaccine once it becomes available during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
While a specific timeline is not yet available, Gov. Cooper did say that the vaccine will be free to anyone in North Carolina who wants to get it.
The vaccine is currently awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but if/when it is approved, North Carolina has been scheduled to receive 85,000 doses in the initial allotment.
According to Governor Cooper and Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, State health officials will review data and research on any vaccine before beginning to make it available to the public, Cooper said.
The state wants everyone to get the vaccine, but when it becomes available to various populations will depend on factors including job and current health status. Based on the vaccine phased plan, it will first be given to healthcare workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities, which accounts for about 161,000 people. Assuming the FDA approved the vaccine as anticipated, the vaccines will be available before the end of the year.
The second phase of individuals excepted tp receive the vaccine are residents of long-term care, people over the age of 65 who live in crowded situations such as jails and homeless shelters, and other adults who have two or more chronic conditions that put them at greater risk for a severe case of the coronavirus. That group is estimated to number up to 951,000.
Vaccinating the rest of those at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 will encompass another 1 to 1.5 million people – everyone over 65, those under 65 in crowded situations or who work in frontline jobs and don’t have two or more chronic conditions such as teachers and emergency personnel.
The third phase makes vaccine available to anyone in an essential position, according to the state “workers in industries critical to societal functioning,” such as grocery stores and the food industry, and students in K-12 schools as well as students in colleges and universities.
The fourth and final phase would include the remainder of the North Carolina population.
The phase process is to determine who and when the vaccine is available to the respective population, but the decision to receive the vaccine will be up to each individual and not mandated by the state.
While the state is expected to get 85,000, distributing those vaccines to the identified population will be the responsibility of county health departments.
On Tuesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations in North Carolina surpassed 2,000 for the first time. More than 2,030 people are in the hospital fighting coronavirus, and nearly a quarter of those are in intensive care units. Statewide, hospital beds are 74% full and intensive care units are 79% full. HCA’s Director of Public and Media Relations, Nancy Lindell, said that as of Monday morning, Mission Health system has 60 lab-confirmed positive COVID 19 patients in HCA hospitals; 49 of those are at Mission Hospital, 1 at Angel Medical Center, 6 at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital; 1 at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital; 3 at Mission Hospital McDowell.