Group 4 becomes eligible for vaccines in NC this week as local pharmacies seek more doses

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Millions more people will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccines this week, as North Carolina officials allow the first part of Group 4 to begin getting shots starting Wednesday.

People with high-risk medical conditions, those experiencing homelessness and people who are incarcerated and have not yet been vaccinated are all included in the group becoming eligible March 17. To see if you qualify, click here.

The state Department of Health and Human Services says that includes more than 4.1 million people, the largest group to become eligible at one time. Group 5 is the remainder of the state’s population that has not yet been able to be vaccinated and will include 3.5 million people, according to state health officials.

Nitin Reddy of Cary is among those who will be eligible Wednesday. He came to Parkwest Pharmacy in Durham on Sunday as his father got his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“It’s gonna feel kind of great,” he said. “Just can’t wait to come back on Wednesday and get it done.”

Before the pandemic, he helped with various athletic teams at Green Hope High School and has missed getting to see everyone.

“It’s just been crazy not being able to go and see the friends, students, and the teachers,” he said. “I’m glad that I can go back and see everybody and just can’t wait to see what happens when the COVID-19 ends.”

Swathantri Kandi, pharmacy manager at Parkwest Pharmacy, said she was able to begin offering vaccinations the first week of March after the Durham County Public Health Department allocated doses to her pharmacy.

So far, she said the pharmacy has administered more than 450 doses.

Kandi is still prioritizing people in the groups who are already eligible to receive the vaccines. A large portion of people on her pharmacy’s waiting list of about 1,500 people are in Group 4, she said.

How quickly she can move to them will all come down to how many more vaccine doses she can get.

“With the independent pharmacies, we really had a struggle getting the vaccine supply at first,” she said.

Kandi said she’d like to see more independent pharmacies like hers get greater access to the vaccines because she thinks the connections local providers like her have developed will help in reaching out to people who may be hesitant about getting vaccinated.

“We don’t want to leave anyone without a shot. Anyone who is walking into the pharmacy, I want to make sure they will be vaccinated for sure,” she said. “People will be definitely ready to go inside the pharmacy and talk about it because we have those personal connections. And, people trust us a lot.”

CBS17 reported last week that some counties already have begun vaccinations for Group 4 while others are still working through their existing waiting lists.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said last week people will not be required to provide proof of a high-risk medical condition in order to schedule an appointment.

“A lot of that was considered. But, I think we found out early in the process, the less cumbersome we make this process, that we get you in and get you your shot and get you out, the better off we are,” he said. “We’re gonna rely on people’s good judgment and their knowledge of their own medical condition.”

North Carolina Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state is not expecting to receive additional shipments of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine until April.

She encouraged people to make the first appointment that they can when they become eligible.

“I think these are three safe and effective vaccines,” she said Thursday.

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