RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina is moving to vaccinate those in Group 4 against COVID-19 beginning on March 24.
As part of that group, if you are a smoker (current or former) who has consumed at least 100 cigarettes in your lifetime, you too can get vaccinated, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
The vaccination changes come as President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. is on track to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for every adult by the end of May. Biden added that he would like to see enough vaccine doses for every educator and school worker to receive the first dose of the vaccine by the end of March. He said he would direct every state to prioritize educators for vaccination.
Also on Tuesday, Merck and Co. Inc. announced it will help make rival Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in a partnership President Biden called an example of “good corporate citizenship.” The government will invoke the Defense Production Act to equip Merck’s plants to be able to produce the J&J vaccine, Biden said.
Group 4 in North Carolina is also composed of adults 16-64 years old at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness. Homelessness and incarcerated people who have not been vaccinated are also included.
NCDHHS also shared clarifications for Groups 1 and 4. The definition of long-term care in Group 1 has been updated for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Higher-risk medical conditions for Group 4 include intellectual and developmental disabilities including Down syndrome, and neurologic conditions, such as dementia.
This week, the federal government authorized the distribution of Johnson & Johnson’s (Janssen) one-shot vaccine, and more than 80,000 doses are expected to arrive in the state beginning Wednesday.
“A third COVID-19 vaccine means North Carolina can get more people vaccinated sooner, which will save lives and slow the spread,” said North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. in the release.
Cooper says he will continue to advocate to increase vaccine supply in North Carolina. Since Jan. 20, the amount of vaccine received by the state has increased by 135%, according to data from NCDHHS.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.