CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina's vaccination process will move further in Group 3, a week ahead of schedule.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that all frontline essential workers in Group 3 will be eligible to receive the vaccine starting Wednesday, March 3. The original timeline had non-educators in this vaccine phase eligible starting March 10.
The expedited timeline follows the approval of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine and an expected increase in vaccine supply to North Carolina. Cooper said several vaccine providers had indicated demand in prior groups was waning and they were ready to move on.
“The state and our providers continue to work extremely hard to get people vaccinated in a way that’s fast and fair,” Cooper said. “The third vaccine and improving vaccine supply will help us get more people vaccinated more quickly. Our essential frontline workers have remained on the job throughout this pandemic and I am grateful for their work.”
Group 3 includes first responders and emergency personnel such as police and firefighters, people who work in-person in manufacturing, food and agriculture, grocery stores, government workers and our clergy, among others.
Gov. Cooper also outlined an expected timeline for when the state would start Group 4 vaccinations. Beginning on March 24, people at higher risk from COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions will become the first within Group 4 who are eligible to receive a vaccine, as well as people in certain congregate-living settings.
Group 4 also contains non-frontline essential workers in industries like communications, energy, financial services and public works, but they are not at the head of their vaccination phase.
“This is a really exciting moment,” Secretary Cohen said. "A third COVID-19 vaccine means North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner and keep people out of the hospital and prevent deaths from this pandemic.”
The vaccination news comes are more than 80,000 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine are scheduled to arrive in North Carolina Wednesday. The single-shot vaccine is being lauded as a game-changer in the pandemic due to the fact it does not require extreme cold storage. This will allow more health care providers to receive and administer vaccines.
"It reduces and prevents hospitalizations and it prevents deaths," Dr. Jerome Williams with Novant Health said last week. "And that's really the bottom line. If we're able to achieve that then we are wildly successful and that will be an end to the pandemic."
Health officials are optimistic the new vaccine will help speed up the process, pushing us closer to the end of the pandemic. Last week, Cooper's new executive order took effect, easing some of the restrictions on businesses, including the elimination of the nightly curfew and allowing restaurants to have more customers inside. The order also allows more fans to attend outdoor sporting events, which was a major win for parents of high school athletes competing this spring.
Large indoor sporting venues, such as those used by college and professional athletics, can operate at 15% capacity with no cap otherwise so long as their stadium or arena typically seats more than 5,000 attendees.
The Charlotte Hornets organization released a statement indicating they were reviewing guidelines and discussing with the NBA safe options to return fans to the Spectrum Arena at a later date.