A health worker preparing to extract a dose of vaccine from a vial. Asian Development Bank / Flickr

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All adults ages 16 and older in North Carolina will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 7, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday. Remaining Group 4 individuals, including non-frontline essential workers and individuals in congregate settings such as student dormitories, will be eligible for vaccination on March 31 under the new state guidelines. 

The acceleration of the priority groups comes as nearly one-third of adult North Carolinians are at least partially vaccinated, Cooper said. 

Group 4 essential workers include individuals in retail, banking, hospitality and infrastructure, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said. A complete list is available from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

Front-line essential workers became eligible for vaccination on March 24.

Several North Carolina counties are already open to all eligible adults, including Craven, Davidson, Greene, Rockingham and Stokes counties. 

Although all adults become eligible on April 7, the age requirement differs by vaccine. Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized for those 16 and 17 years old. The Moderna vaccine and Johnson & Johnson vaccine are authorized only for use by individuals 18 and older. 

State officials also announced Healthier Together, a new public-private partnership with the N.C. Counts Coalition to increase access for historically marginalized populations. The program will encourage vaccination through education efforts, scheduling assistance and translation services. 

Black North Carolinians represent about 23% of the total population and about 17% of the total population vaccinated, while Latinx individuals make up 9.8% of the total population but only 4.5% of the total population vaccinated, according to DHHS data.

“Over the next couple of months, N.C. Counts Coalition will be building a team and expanding our grant program to support our work with the state and community-based organizations to increase the number of historically marginalized populations receiving vaccinations,” Stacey Carless, executive director of the coalition, said. 

As the vaccination rollout accelerates, Cooper said hesitancy or resistance will need to be addressed at the individual level. 

“We’re going to depend on doctors and ministers and family members and friends to push and cajole those who may be hesitant about getting the vaccine,” he said. 

The nation reached 100 million vaccinations administered last week. President Joe Biden announced a new goal of 200 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, doubling the earlier goal. 

Biden said he will direct states to make all adults eligible for vaccines starting May 1. Many states already announced plans to move their eligibility timelines ahead of the president’s schedule. 

In Florida, everyone 40 and older can receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 29, with everyone in the state 18 and older eligible on April 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an expansion of the state’s vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older beginning April 15. 

South Carolina remains in phase 1b, vaccination of those 55 or older, front-line essential workers and individuals with one or more high-risk medical condition. The state is scheduled to move to individuals 45 and older in mid-April.

In North Carolina, vaccine doses are available through local and national pharmacies, county health departments and hospitals. People are fully immunized two weeks following their second dose of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to health officials.

Laura Lee

Laura Lee is the News Editor at Carolina Public Press. Contact her at llee@carolinapublicpress.org.