CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - About 60 percent of North Carolina’s 65 years and older population still needs to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But in just two weeks, an additional 240,000 people will become eligible to get the vaccine in Group 3.
Already, many seniors have reported struggling to get appointments for the vaccine without other groups becoming eligible. Kristina Maxwell’s mom is 79. In early January, it took Maxwell three tries to secure an appointment for her mom.
“Right now, it’s March 9, and that’s so far away,” Maxwell said. “My mom’s getting real tired of staying home from me saying ‘I don’t want you going anywhere’. And yeah, I’m worried about us bringing it to her and you know she’s at risk. There are a lot of people out there like her.”
And as more people become eligible for the vaccine under Group 3, securing an appointment could get even more competitive.
“We know that this can be frustrating for folks and it’s simply because there is not enough supply and not enough appointments,” NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said.
Because supply is so limited and there is still a large portion of the older population still needing the vaccine, reporters asked Governor Cooper during a press conference on Wednesday why he is expanding eligibility now instead of waiting until more of the Group 2 population is vaccinated.
“This is one of the reasons why the state is not making this move until February 24th. That gives the state two more weeks to vaccinate those 65 and older as the supply is increasing,” Governor Cooper said. “We do know that we want to get to frontline essential workers as soon as we can. And waiting two more weeks to build on that 65 and older and get as many of them vaccinated is an important part of this. We want everybody to be vaccinated so everybody can be safer.”
Governor Cooper said getting more vaccine supply will be the solution to making more appointments available.
Mecklenburg County’s Public Health Director Gibbie Harris echoed that sentiment, but also added that the county is working to make the vaccine more readily available to seniors so that they don’t get skipped by Group 3.
“One of the things we’re hoping for is more vaccine. If we had more vaccine, we could make more appointments available,” Harris said. “But one of the other things we continue to do, and we know our other vaccine partners are doing the same thing, is holding events that will be more available for the 65 and older. And looking for ways to make sure there is equity in getting the vaccine out.”
Mecklenburg County is opening more vaccine appointments for the end of February and the first two weeks of March. If you qualify for the vaccine in Groups 1, 2, or 3 you can begin booking appointments at 8:30 a.m. Friday. If you cannot secure an appointment, you can add your name to Mecklenburg County’s new waitlist.
Medical Director of Mecklenburg County Dr. Meg Sullivan says the waitlist will help them ensure seniors don’t fall through the cracks as more people become eligible.
“If the appointments do become full, sign up for the waitlist. That’s something we take very seriously and will again be prioritizing individuals,” Dr. Sullivan said.