North Carolina health officials have announced a significant revamp of the state vaccine rollout plan. They have done away with the previous sub-tiered four-phase system and introduced a streamlined plan with five groups.
State Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen said the new plan is an effort to simplify vaccine distribution and implementation. The five main categories for vaccination priority are now:
- Health care workers and long-term care staff and residents
- Adults 65 and older
- Frontline essential workers
- Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness
- Everyone remaining
The new state plan expands the prioritization of seniors to those 65 and older. Previously, only those 75 and older were being vaccinated. The new rollout removes prioritization for college or university students, or K-12 students who are 16 or older.
The new, more simplified guidance comes in response to growing concerns that the state Department of Health and Human Services' 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.
Cohen said the new plan is intended to give local health departments and hospitals more flexibility to "move to the next priority group as they complete the previous one."
The changes incorporate recent directives from the Trump Administration to administer vaccinations more quickly while focusing on people who need it most, Cohen said in the Thursday afternoon briefing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.