North Carolina will expand its COVID-19 vaccine protocols, offering shots to people 65 and up, Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday.
The change meshes with shifting federal guidelines, adding the younger age set of people to those 75 and up, who the state started vaccinating in recent days.
This would open the vaccine up to as many as a million more people in North Carolina. That’s far more than the state has shots on hand for, so administering these doses may take weeks or longer.
Cooper, speaking Thursday morning to a virtual gathering of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners, said more details would come later. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen plans a press call at 2 p.m.
“We’re going to be opening up the criteria for people 65 and over,” the governor said. “So, not only people 75 and over will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine now, but … those 65 and over will be, along with health care providers.”
Cooper asked county commissioners to encourage their local health departments, which are handling logistics for the vaccine rollout that has been slow going at the start, to use doses sent their way as quickly as possible. He asked commissioners to “make that an absolute priority” and said they also need to press health departments to log doses given in the state’s vaccine tracking system.
Health departments have criticized that system as time consuming and clunky, but the data sent back to the state is used to determine future vaccine allocations. Cooper encouraged county governments to ask for whatever help they need, including the logistics of appointment setting and data entry.
He also asked county commissioners to set a good example, wearing masks and social distancing.
“The next few months are going to be tough,” Cooper said. “Regardless of how many people we vaccinate, we know that we will not be able to get the acquired immunity for several months. So our prevention efforts are more important than ever. I ask you all to set examples.”
He also re-iterated a suggestion that they pass local ordinances to enforce mask and other mandates he’s handed down from the state level. Some have criticized the governor for sending out statewide edicts but leaving it to local authorities to enforce them, or leaving them largely unenforced.
“We ask your sheriffs and others to help us with this, because we can save lives,” Cooper said Thursday morning.
WRAL News Investigative Data Reporter Ali Ingersoll contributed to this report.