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See the latest news and updates about COVID-19 and its impact on the Charlotte region, the Carolinas and beyond.

North Carolina Will Vaccinate People With High-Risk Medical Conditions Earlier Than Planned

Claire Donnelly
North Carolina will open up vaccines to people in Group 4 starting March 17.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state will begin vaccinating some people in Group 4 starting March 17 — a week earlier than planned.

Group 4 is for anyone ages16-64 with a high-risk medical condition, such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes or serious heart conditions. Current and former smokers are also part of Group 4.

Cooper said during a news conference that people don’t need a doctor’s note to get vaccinated.

"We’re going to rely on people’s good judgment and their knowledge of their own medical conditions to tell what their condition is," he said. "No, there’s no written proof that’s required of this."

Cooper said the state is able to start vaccinating Group 4 earlier than planned because it's receiving more vaccine doses. Last month, the federal government approved the use of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In addition to people with health conditions, Group 4 includes people living in group settings, such as homeless shelters and correctional facilities.

The state is currently vaccinating health care workers (Group 1), people ages 65 and older (Group 2) and many essential workers (Group 3).

Starting on April 7, the state will offer the vaccine to more essential workers, such as bank tellers and people who work in information technology and logistics.

Mandy Cohen, the state's top public public health official, said new J&J doses aren't expected to arrive until sometime around the beginning of April. She and Cooper are urging people to book the first appointment available to them, regardless of which of the three vaccines it may be. The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots and single-dose J&J vaccine are all safe and effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

“All three of these vaccines protect equally against serious illness and death, which is the most important thing when talking about COVID-19," Cooper said.

As of Thursday, more than 1.1 million people in North Carolina had received the second dose of their two-shot vaccine series, and more than 1.8 million had received just the first part. Another 21,859 people had gotten the one-shot vaccine.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.