RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – While vaccinations are underway in hospitals and were scheduled to start soon in long term care facilities, a question remained over who qualifies as front line workers.
The state’s vaccine roll-out plan splits front line workers into three phases.
In the next phase, Phase 1B, North Carolina has identified adults with two or more chronic conditions that put them at risk of severe illness as the next recipients. Those illnesses include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥ 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
A person must have at least two of these conditions to qualify. Front line workers in this phase include police (EMT and paramedics are included in Phase 1A), firefighters, grocery store employees, government workers, food processing workers, teachers, or those in child care who are also included in this phase — all of which must have at least two chronic illnesses.
Charles Hodges, executive director of the NC Licensed Child Care Association, was relieved to see child care employees included in the Phase 1B. He said making them part of this early group ensures our hospital workers can get to work when we need them.
“We need those folks in the child care centers to get those vaccinations so they will be there to provide safe and reliable care for those workers who are the front of the line at this point,” Hodges said.
Health care workers and those living in prisons, homeless shelters, migrant and fishery housing with at least two chronic conditions are also included.
Workers in prisons, jails, and homeless shelters are also included in this phase. No chronic conditions are required.
So far, Hodges said the state has not provided any insight into how the Phase 1B process will play out.
“The decisions on vaccinations, that’s going to be left up to employers really. It’s going to be their ultimate say into what the policies are on that,” Hodges said.
Phase 2 expands vaccinations to those listed in Phase 1B but do not have a chronic illness.
All other health care workers not included in Phase 1A or 1B will have to wait until Phase 2 to be vaccinated. Teachers and school staff with no chronic illness are listed in Phase 2.
Adults under 65 with one chronic condition and adults over 65 with or without chronic conditions are part of this group as well.
The state’s description of Phase 3 is more vague. It lists workers in industries critical to the functioning of society and at increased risk of exposure who are not included in Phase 1 or Phase 2. It lists those workers as:
• Energy and telecom workers
• Water, energy, and waste operators
• Retail workers (including grocery store workers) not included in Phase 2
It also lists students in the K-12 system and college students in this phase. The current approved vaccines, however are not recommended for those under age 16.
Phase 4 will include the rest of the population.