NC changes vaccine plan to focus on simplicity and speed

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The state once again changing its vaccine rollout plan. This comes after new guidance from federal health officials asked for a simpler approach.

The state has now thrown out its original vaccine phases and is instead grouping the state.

“We’re trying for simplicity and speed as we go through this as well as a focus on equity and that’s what we’ll continue to do,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.

Under the new plan, the first two groups are already underway. Those groups are all health care workers, long-term care staff and residents, and adults 65 years and older.

While previous plans spread essential workers throughout different phases, the revised plan places them all in the third group. Those people include people working in education or day care, grocery store,s or public transit workers. They also include first responders, people in food, and agriculture. Corrections workers and postal service workers are also in group 3.

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The following group is for people at high risk for exposure to the virus or at high risk for severe illness from the virus.

The remainder of the public is in the final group. While college students were prioritized in earlier plans, they are part of the general public now.

As recommended by federal health officials, hospitals and health departments don’t have to wait to finish one group before moving on to the next.

“Providers are at different points, so I think that flexibility is important so they can have the speed that they need if they want it at the local level,” Cohen said.

Will this new plan be enough?

These changes come as federal public health officials try to address slow vaccine rollouts across the country. They believe widening the pool of people eligible for a vaccine right now could speed things up.

It may not be the only answer.

“Making more people eligible isn’t going to speed up the process. The only thing that’s going to speed up the process is giving us, everybody more vaccine to get out,” said Todd McGee with Orange County.

He said his county only has enough vaccines to accommodate second doses next week. They will not be able to make appointments for first doses. Complicating the issue is the fact that counties only get a few days warning about the number of doses on the way.

“We can’t determine how many appointments to schedule until we know how much vaccine we have,” McGee said.

It’s unclear if the new plan will be more effective than the previous two. So far in this pandemic, change has been the only constant.

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