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North Carolina to vaccinate anyone 65 years and older

The change meshes with shifting federal guidelines, adding the younger age set of people to those 75 and up, whom the state started vaccinating in recent days.

RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday vaccine providers that are ready to expand can vaccinate all health care workers and anyone 65 years and older.   

“Doctors, hospitals and local health departments are working hard to get people vaccinated," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. said. "There may be a wait, but when it’s your spot, take your shot to stay healthy and help us get back to being with family and friends." 

RELATED: NC COVID-19 Blog: Adults over 65 can get the vaccine now

Each site can determine whether to keep only vaccinating those 75 or older depending on supply, but as shipments arrive, state officials hope more sites will expand who they're vaccinating.

Because vaccine supplies are currently limited, states had to make the vaccine available in phases. Originally, the first phase was subdivided into priority groups such as frontline health care workers and those over 75 years old. Now that the state has moved past that first phase of offerings, the rest of the population is being divided into five groups. 

"Since supplies are limited, we have prioritized those who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying and those at highest risk for exposure," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. said

There were some changes made to the phases and groups who fall into each of the phases with the new plan.  The changes include teachers and college students.  Below is a list of the changes for various groups under the new plan:

IF YOU ARE...

65 OR OLDER: You are now immediately eligible for the vaccine in North Carolina. Whether you can sign up for an appointment, however, is a different story. Several counties say they are keeping appointments at 75+ for now while they wait for more doses.

A TEACHER/FRONTLINE ESSENTIAL WORKER: You are next in line for the vaccine, but prepare to wait longer than previously expected. Frontline workers were originally slated to get the vaccine before people age 65-74. That means hundreds of thousands of people just jumped ahead of teachers, grocery store workers, first responders, etc.

SOMEONE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS: No change. People who are especially vulnerable to covid-19 are still being given priority ahead of the general population. They will be vaccinated right after people 65+ and frontline workers.

A COLLEGE STUDENT: You've been moved to the back of the line. College students are no longer included as a priority group in the vaccine rollout. They will be eligible for the vaccine when it rolls out to the general public.

RELATED: Where to receive your coronavirus vaccine in the Carolinas

There's been growing frustration over the sluggish roll out of the vaccination. Health officials say its not going as fast as they hoped but they are working diligently. 

"That's certainly top of mind, that sense of urgency of wanting to get more shots into arms quickly," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. said

COVID-19 vaccinations are free of charge, regardless of whether or not people have insurance. However, most doctors cannot provide COVID-19 vaccines in their office at this time. Individuals who are currently eligible and would like to receive the vaccine must make an appointment with their local health department or hospital.

Health officials asked for the publics patience.

"Many people have to wait before a vaccine is available for them," NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. said

RELATED: Several big organizations working together to hit target goal of 1 million vaccinations by July 4 in North Carolina

More vaccination sites will be opening in Mecklenburg County in cooperation with large companies like Honeywell, Tepper Sports, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Atrium Health.