BREAKING: Ages 65+ now eligible for Covid vaccine
N.C. alters guidelines for vaccine distribution to include nearly 80,000 older Mecklenburg residents — but appointments for shots are hard to come by
Good afternoon! There’s no news like HOT BREAKING NEWS, and this week has it droves. When big news breaks out, we break in … so here we are.
A Mecklenburg County resident gets vaccinated by the county health department at Bojangles Coliseum. (Photo from N.C. Department of Health and Human Services)
by Tony Mecia
Good news for the people most at risk for serious complications from Covid: North Carolina says that healthcare providers are cleared to start administering the vaccine to anyone aged 65 and up.
But it’s probably not going to happen tomorrow, or even next week. Because of the lack of availability of the vaccine, there are backlogs for appointments. People in that age group, plus all healthcare workers, are now eligible, the state announced today. The move follows a federal recommendation from earlier this week.
“Doctors, hospitals and local health departments are working hard to get people vaccinated,” N.C. Health and Human Services secretary Mandy Cohen said in a news release. “There may be a wait, but when it’s your spot, take your shot to stay healthy and help us get back to being with family and friends.”
Front-line healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities were the first to receive the shots, beginning last month. Last week, residents aged 75+ were eligible to start receiving the vaccine.
The switch in the priority to include residents ages 65-74 means that about 79,000 people in Mecklenburg County, or about 7% of the county’s population, are newly eligible to get shots, according to census figures. Additionally, there are about 49,000 Mecklenburg residents aged 75+, or about 4% of the county’s population.
Here’s the latest chart with North Carolina’s vaccine priorities:
You’ll see that up next will be “frontline essential workers” — and there’s likely to be a whole bunch of discussion about who is essential and who’s not. The definitions from the federal government seem as though they will leave a lot of room for interpretation.
The state says that local health departments are at the moment the best source of the vaccine.
For Mecklenburg County, the health department’s number is 980-314-9400. A recorded message at that number says supplies are limited and the department is experiencing high call volumes: “If you remain on hold after 15 minutes, you will be prompted to leave a message, and we will return your call as soon as possible.”
The county said on Twitter — for all the people aged 65+ who are on Twitter — that appointments are full through the end of January. County health officials are holding a news conference at 4 p.m. today, where they are expected to discuss the vaccine. County news conferences can be viewed on the county Facebook page.
Separately, local hospitals and corporations announced plans Thursday to help speed up the distribution of the Covid vaccine in the Charlotte area:
Atrium Health said it’s working with Honeywell, Tepper Sports & Entertainment, the Charlotte Motor Speedway and state and local health officials to offer the vaccine at Bank of America Stadium and Charlotte Motor Speedway. The private companies are lending expertise in logistics and operations support.
Novant Health said it is working with Trane Technologies and the Charlotte Hornets to use the Spectrum Center uptown to distribute the vaccine.
More details are expected on those efforts in the coming days and weeks.
Older Covid patients are by far the most likely to die of the disease. In North Carolina, residents ages 75+ account for 60% of the state’s Covid deaths, and residents ages 65-74 account for an additional 23% of the deaths, according to state figures.
Of North Carolinians who have been vaccinated, 27% are ages 75+, and an additional 6% are aged 65-74, state data shows.
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