RALEIGH — Providers can start vaccinating those in phase 3 of the vaccine rollout plan starting Feb. 24, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Feb. 10.
"Educators will be the first members of group three to be eligible to receive this vaccine, as frontline essential workers," Cooper said at a press conference. "This will include teachers, principals, childcare providers, bus drivers, custodial staff, cafeteria workers, and other education workers in our pre-K through 12 schools and childcare centers."
Starting with a smaller number in group three, said Cooper, allows providers to streamline vaccine distribution. About 8,400 people are currently eligible for a vaccine in the first two phases in Watauga County, according to AppHealthCare.
"Anyone who must be in person, like teachers, bus drivers, van drivers, custodial and maintenance staff, and food service workers will be eligible to take their shot," Secretary of the North Carolina Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen said. "Over the next two weeks, we will continue to vaccinate those 65 and older and health care workers, as we also work with our partners to develop operational guidance to support childcare and school staff in accessing vaccines."
The North Carolina Association of Educators released a statement after Cooper's announcement, thanking him for making teachers a priority.
"North Carolina public school educators are eager to get back into their classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so and today’s announcement from Governor Cooper is an important step forward in making that a possibility," said NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly in a statement. "By giving all educators, including bus drivers, maintenance workers, nutrition workers, and those who work directly in the classroom vaccination priority, we will be able to resume in-person instruction more quickly and safely. We thank Governor Cooper for listening to the overwhelming message from educators, parents, and the community that educators require vaccination priority."
Cooper also announced that the federal government informed the state that it would receive roughly 7,500 more vaccine doses.
AppHealthCare and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System are currently receiving about 200 vaccine doses per week.
"We recognize there are so many of our vaccine providers that could be administering more vaccine. There just isn't the supply," Cohen said. "The way we are allocating our vaccine first is the vast majority of it in the baseline is strictly distributed based on county population that ensures all 100 counties are getting vaccine proportional to the folks who are in their county."
AppHealthCare Health Director Jennifer Greene told Appalachian State Faculty Senate on Feb. 8 that between her organization and ARHS, the county has the capacity to vaccinate about 5,000 people per week if they had the doses.
"We're trying to do all we can to say to the state that as soon as you get us more vaccine, we're ready for it," Greene said.
More information on the vaccine phases in North Carolina can be found at covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.