How will elderly people be vaccinated in North Carolina?

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Right now, a majority of health care workers are getting vaccines where they work. People in long-term care or senior-living facilities are having vaccines come to them. For the 75 and older population — which is next in line — vaccinations are more spread out in the community and more difficult to reach.

The state updated its vaccine plan for Phase 1b less than a week ago to include people 75 years and older next in line. That quick change now has local county health departments scrambling as Phase 1b is scheduled to start next week.

Todd McGee, community relations director with Orange County, said his county will rely on the local senior centers to get the word out about the vaccine process.

“(Seniors) trust people at the senior center. They know they would not be steering them wrong,” McGee said.

At this point, there is no statewide system for people 75 years and older to begin to sign up.

Orange County wants an organized process to avoid what happened in Florida last week.

“The health departments just said, ‘Hey, we’ve got vaccines, if you want it, come get it.’ And the next thing you know, there’s two or three hundred seniors camped out in cold weather and turning a vaccination clinic into a super spreader event.”

McGee said Orange County was informed by the state that they are working on a sign up program.

CBS 17 reached out to NCDHHS who does not have a plan solidified for the process. They provided this statement: “We are working with primary care physicians, hospitals, and local health departments on how to structure this process.  Vaccine supplies are limited so it will take time, and most doctors cannot provide vaccinations in their offices, but people who are 75+ will have some of the first spots to take their shot. “

Meanwhile, the next hurdle is pinpointing where and how seniors will get their vaccine. Health care workers in Orange County are using a drive-up method but that may not work for seniors.

“Some of them don’t have access to a vehicle or they may not be able to drive, and then they have to sit there and be monitored. That’s probably not best for that age group as well,” McGee said.

Vaccine shortage

The goal is to start vaccinating people 75 years and older next week. However, getting to Phase 1b and through the rest of the remaining phases is out of the county’s hands.

“The determining factor is going to be- how many vaccines do we have,” McGee said.

Wake County reports it doesn’t have enough vaccines to move into Phase 1b.

Wake County told CBS 17 in a statement:

“The ideal setting for someone 75 or older to be vaccinated is within their medical home. Local health departments like us, hospitals, community health centers and primary care physicians in Wake County are and will continue to coordinate a joint strategy to identify, reach and vaccinate the 75+ population.”

Mike Zelek, Chatham County Public Health Director told CBS 17 in a statement:

“The Chatham County Public Health Department, along with our local hospital, continues to work hard to vaccinate all in the Phase 1a population who want the vaccine. At the same time, we have been coordinating with these partners on collaborative plans to vaccinate individuals 75 and older. It is a significant undertaking, and we will be utilizing every resource we have to conduct this critical public health intervention.”

Source: NCDHHS

Remaining phases

Phase 2: Adults at high risk for exposure and at increased risk of severe illness.

Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:

  • Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, regardless of health status or living situation
  • Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation
  • Group 3: Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.
  • Group 4: Essential workers not yet vaccinated.
    The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers.

Phase 3: Students

  • College and university students
  • K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them.

Phase 4: Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.

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