On Wednesday, all North Carolinians age 16 and up will be eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine.

Group 5 includes anyone age 16 and up for the Pfizer vaccine, and anyone 18 and up for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot.

Data from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services shows more than 30 percent of the state’s population has been at least partially vaccinated, with around 20 percent having been fully vaccinated. In Orange County, that number is even higher, with 37 percent of the population partially vaccinated.

As of Tuesday, the state has surpassed 5.2 million doses administered.

As the general public becomes eligible for their vaccine, at his latest press conference, Governor Roy Cooper said the state’s most at-risk populations continue to be vaccinated at a high rate.

“Particularly important is that our most vulnerable population, those 65 and over, is gaining protection every day,” Cooper said. “Seventy-three percent of them have had at least one shot and more than 65 percent of them are fully vaccinated.”

Cooper said while COVID-19 metrics in North Carolina remain steady, with the percent of positive tests remaining at five percent and a stable level of hospitalizations, there are concerning trends in other parts of the country.

“Although North Carolina remains in a stable position, we can’t let our guard down,” Cooper said. “This is especially true as we see rising numbers in other parts of the country and across the world. This virus is still out there, and new, more infectious variants are spreading. We need to continue to be careful and responsible.”

Amid increasing vaccinations and loosening restrictions in North Carolina, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state did not get where it is today by accident.

“Our progress is the result of North Carolinians doing what it takes to protect one another day in and day out – and none of it could have happened without our public health workers,” Cohen said.

Cohen said this week is National Public Health Week – where healthcare workers are acknowledged for their continuous work to keep communities safe, especially during the pandemic.

“Our public heath workers have saved countless lives by providing access to testing, getting masks to people and helping businesses and schools implement best practices to slow the spread of this virus,” Cohen said. “Now, they’re helping to get vaccines to everyone in our state.”

Locally, UNC Health’s vaccination clinic at the Friday Center needs about 120 public health workers every day to properly distribute its growing vaccine supply. This includes nurses, physicians, schedulers, pharmacists, IT support, and volunteers.

Across North Carolina, UNC Health has received nearly 21,000 first doses of vaccine this week, including more than 8,900 at the Friday Center. Those totals are the highest weekly allocations the healthcare system has received since initial distribution began in January.

Vaccination appointments for those who are now eligible under Group 5 are open. UNC Health officials say, even with the increased supply, appointments are expected to fill up quickly. Residents are encouraged to remain patient and keep checking back at UNC’s vaccination site here.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden called for states to open up vaccine eligibility to all residents by April 19, two weeks before the May 1 deadline he had previously set.


Lead photo via Travis Long / News & Observer.

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