New Hanover Co. Public Health to continue to prioritize vaccines for adults 65 and older

Gov. Cooper: Vaccines open to all frontline essential workers in Group 3 starting Wednesday

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Despite Gov. Roy Cooper announcing Tuesday that the state would allow all frontline essential workers in Group 3 to get the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Wednesday, New Hanover County Public Health said it will instead continue its efforts vaccinating “healthcare workers, adults 65 and older, and education staff in the coming weeks.”

County officials said the department does not plan to move fully into Group 3 of the state’s vaccination plan until a greater percentage of the county’s adults over 65 have been vaccinated.

“We know that essential workers want and need the vaccine and will work toward that goal,” said Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko. “At this time, reaching a higher level of immunity among our 65+ age group is an important public health priority. We will also continue working with our local healthcare partners to get as many people vaccinated through minority outreach events, targeted vaccination events for frontline essential workers beginning March 10, and more.

“But we plan to continue having our main vaccination sites and appointments open primarily for Groups 1 and 2, and education staff from Group 3, at this time. We do not have a timeline yet of when we will open Group 3 more widely, but we will continue to keep the public informed of our progress.”

With the recent approval of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the county said it does not provide a “vaccine-shopping option” for residents because its public health department utilizes any and all vaccine that is supplied by the state.

“When someone comes to a vaccine site for an appointment, they are informed about the vaccine they will receive at that time,” the county said in a news release. “But the county does not routinely announce in advance which brand is being administered on a given day or at a given location, because vaccines administered may vary throughout the day depending on supply and brand available.”

“We hope to receive more vaccine supply from the state moving forward now that the Janssen (J&J) vaccine has been authorized by the FDA,” said Interim Public Health Director David Howard. “This new vaccine, coupled with continued supplies of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, will help increase our efforts and the number of people we can vaccinate each week. And each will be administered equitably and efficiently, to help increase our community’s immunity to the virus. We encourage everyone in the community to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it is your turn, because all three vaccines that are approved are very effective.”

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