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

Timing Unclear On NC’s Rollout Of COVID Vaccine Booster Shots For Everyone

COVID-19 vaccine
Claire Donnelly

It was not clear as of Tuesday when vaccinated individuals in North Carolina could begin to receive booster shots of a coronavirus vaccine.

The Biden administration is planning to announce as early as this week that most Americans who have received the coronavirus vaccine will need booster shots to combat waning immunity and the highly contagious delta variant, multiple national media outlets reported on Monday. The administration could announce boosters are necessary eight months after being fully vaccinated, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The boosters would likely not be administered until mid- or late September, after the additional shots receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

In North Carolina, a spokesperson for the state's Department of Health and Human Services said in an emailed statement on Tuesday that the agency will review information from the federal government on booster shots as it receives it and will revise its guidance accordingly.

"At this time, additional doses should only be provided to people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised," the spokesperson said.

Dr. David Priest, a Novant Health infectious disease physician, said Tuesday morning that Novant had not yet heard from state health officials on the topic.

“I don’t have any inside information on that piece. I hope we will know that in the days ahead,” Priest said.

He added: “We also know there are resources in the community — from local drugstores, our organization, local doctor’s offices — that are providing vaccine … so we’ll be giving third doses as soon as possible.”

Atrium Health, Charlotte’s other large hospital system, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that it was “examining the best way to administer a third vaccine.”

“With approvals in hand from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, we will move forward as quickly as possible and will share the distribution strategy as soon as our plans are finalized,” the statement read.

DHHS announced Monday that it had begun administering third doses to residents who received the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and are “moderately to severely immunocompromised.” That includes people who have been receiving cancer treatment or received an organ transplant, among others. People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised make up about 3% of the adult population in the U.S., state health officials said.

Dr. Elizabeth Tilson, state health director and chief medical officer at DHHS, said in a news release that the additional dose will offer “valuable protection.”

“I encourage those who are eligible to get this additional dose,” Tilson said.

North Carolina’s initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine began in the winter. By mid-January, the state was following a streamlined vaccine eligibility timeline divided into five groups: health care workers and long term care staff and residents, older adults, frontline essential workers, adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk for severe illness and then everyone who wanted a vaccine. It’s not clear if the state has a similar plan for the booster rollout.

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