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N.C. changes COVID vaccine eligibility, will offer it to everyone age 65 and older
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N.C. changes COVID vaccine eligibility, will offer it to everyone age 65 and older

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RALEIGH — North Carolina public health officials on Thursday unveiled an updated coronavirus vaccine distribution plan that targets adults 65 years or older, while removing college students as a priority over the general public.

The new, more simplified guidance from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services comes in response to growing concerns that its previous plan was too complicated, slowed down vaccine distribution 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.

North Carolina ranked as the 10th slowest state in the nation per capita in vaccine doses administered, according to data the public health department shared with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday.

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North Carolina’s slow pace is not unusual, given many states have vaccinated around 2% to 3% of their populations. As distribution ramps up due to a shifting federal strategy of not holding back as many doses in reserve, vaccines will be more widely available in the coming months.

Once elderly residents have gotten vaccinated, front-line essential workers will be prioritized in the third phase of distribution.

The fourth phase includes anyone 16 to 64 years old with high-risk medical conditions and prison inmates or others living in close group living settings.

The fifth phase makes a vaccine available to anyone who wants it.

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