CHARLOTTE — North Carolina has taken a huge step forward in the race to vaccinate -- the state opened up vaccines to Group 5 on Wednesday, which means anyone who is 16 or older can get their shot.
For many people anxious to get the shot, the wait has been long -- watching group after group become eligible.
When North Carolina started vaccinations in December, people weren’t sure when they would be able to get their shot. But for everyone 16 and older who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, they could start making appointments on Wednesday.
Mecklenburg County health officials said this is the most vaccine availability they have seen so far in the county. Thousands of appointments are up for grabs with even more being added throughout the day Wednesday.
The county’s appointments opened up at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. They will create additional appointments every Wednesday at the same time.
Health officials said roughly 20% of residents in Mecklenburg County have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Another 14% are fully vaccinated. The deputy health director said we will likely need to hit 70% in order to reach herd immunity, but they are still studying that number.
Statewide, more than 1.9 million have either gotten the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine or both doses of Moderna or Pfizer. In addition, almost 3 million others are waiting for their second dose. Overall, that’s more than 28% of the state’s adults.
State officials said anyone in North Carolina who is 16 and older can get their shot now that eligibility is expanded to Group 5. Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine that is approved for people under 18 so you will need to double check which brand will be administered at your vaccination site before securing your appointment.
Pharmacies across the region have been gearing up for Wednesday and many have opened up appointments for the newly expanded group.
Moose Pharmacy was one of the pharmacies offering vaccine appointments Wednesday to people in Group 5 and at several different locations. The owner, Joe Moose, said he has already noticed an excitement and interest from younger people who can now get the shot.
“Leading up to Group 5 we’ve had a lot of calls from people 18-30 that are eager to get the vaccine. They’re waiting eagerly. They brought parents and grandparents and had a lot of questions,” Moose said.
State leaders said they are hoping younger people will sign up and get vaccinated quickly. They said almost 40% of adults are at least partially vaccinated and 73% of people 65 and older have had at least one shot.
“Getting the COVID vaccine it was a no-brainer for us,” father Major Griffey said. “I want to protect my family and me as well.”
Griffey brought his daughters to get vaccinated Wednesday -- one of them is 16 years old. He said he hopes other parents will follow in his footsteps.
“You just can’t take a chance with this,” he said. “This is a serious disease.”
Experts said you shouldn’t be picky about which vaccine you receive. Moderna and Pfizer are more effective, but Johnson and Johnson is attracting a lot of people since it only requires one dose.
Gov. Roy Cooper said you should get the first vaccine available.
“We all do our part,” Cooper said. “We put this pandemic in the rearview mirror, once and for all.”