Cohen DHHS briefing

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen at a Jan. 14 press conference.

RALEIGH — Two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded COVID-19 vaccine guidelines to include 65 year olds and older, North Carolina is doing the same.

Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen announced Jan. 14 that the agency is expanding its vaccination guidelines to include those 65 and older in the current phase.

“Starting today, to align with the new federal priorities and to facilitate speed of vaccinations, vaccine providers that are ready to, can expand to now vaccinate all health care workers, and anyone who is 65 years and older,” Cohen said.

Cohen said North Carolina is receiving about 120,000 doses of the vaccine every week.

According to the Census Bureau, 16.4 percent of Watauga County’s population is made up of people 65 and older. According to NCDHHS, 1,233 people in Watauga County have received a vaccine and 40 people have received both doses.

Cohen said the next people to get a vaccine will be frontline essential workers followed by adults with high risk of exposure and increased risk of serious illness.

“We know that counties are in various stages, as they deal with new cases and vaccinations,” Cohen said. “These factors along with limited supply means that many folks will have to wait before a vaccine is available for them.”

Cohen also reiterated that a person will not be immune from COVID-19 until one to two weeks after they have received their second dose.

Currently, North Carolina has 3,990 people hospitalized due to COVID-19.

“My directive remains in place: stay home,” Cohen said. “Only leave home for essential activities like work, school, or to meet healthcare needs. If you must leave home or be with other people who you don’t live with wear a mask, all the time. Stay at least six feet apart and wash your hands often to keep doing those three W’s so we can slow this virus down while we get everyone a spot to get their shot.”

Currently, both AppHealthCare and ARHS are vaccinating people 75 and up.

“We will follow the NCDHHS guidelines to align with this,” AppHealthCare spokesperson Melissa Bracey said in a statement. “If someone is 65 years or older and interested in receiving the vaccine, we request they fill out our interest form on our website —”

If someone is unable to fill out the form online, Bracey said to call the call center at (828) 795-1970. The call center is open seven days a week.

“We are still only receiving limited quantities of vaccine so we ask for your patience as we use our vaccine interest form to schedule additional people to get their vaccine,” Bracey said. “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure vaccine gets out to the community as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The vaccine interest form from AppHealthCare can be found at

ARHS will also begin to vaccinate those 65 and older. Patients of ARHS can register to be notified when eligible or schedule an appointment to get their vaccine if eligible now by visiting

“Let’s encourage everyone to get the vaccine when your turn comes,” director of North Carolina Emergency Management Mike Sprayberry said. “It’s safe, and it’s free. I’m sure looking forward to getting the shot when my turn comes. You have a spot, so take your shot.”

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