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STATE: NC to vaccinate those 65+; College students not prioritized

By BRYAN ANDERSON Associated Press/Report for America

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina public health officials on Thursday unveiled an updated coronavirus vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes adults 65 years or older, while removing college students as a priority over the general public.

The new, more simplified guidance from the state Department of Health and Human Services comes in response to growing concerns that its previous plan was too complicated, slowed down vaccine distribution and administration and didn’t give enough consideration to older adults who are far more likely to die from the virus than college students and other groups.

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen on Twitter posted a link to the updated distribution plan, which shows elderly residents who are at least 65 years old now able to get vaccinated. Previously, residents had to be at least 75 years old to be prioritized in the current group. The adjustment aligns with new guidance put forward by President Donald Trump’s administration.

North Carolina ranked as the 10th slowest state in the nation per capita in vaccine doses administered, according to data the public health department shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

North Carolina’s slow pace is not unusual, given many states have vaccinated around 2% to 3% of their populations. As distribution ramps up due to a shifting federal strategy of not holding back as many doses in reserve, vaccines will be more widely available in the coming months.

Once elderly residents have gotten vaccinated, frontline essential workers will be prioritized in the third phase of distribution. The fourth phase includes anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions, all prison inmates or others living in close group living settings who are not already vaccinated and essential workers not yet vaccinated.

Based on CDC guidance, these workers include those in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, construction, finance, information technology and communications, energy, law, media, public safety and public health.

The fifth phase makes a vaccine available to anyone who wants it.