This story was last updated at 9:10pm on Tuesday, April 6.
Starting April 7, all individuals ages 16 and up are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Why it matters: It’s simple — the more people with access to the vaccine, the better. And the more folks that are vaccinated, the faster the pandemic will end.
Driving the news: We’re turning the corner when it comes to demand, Gov. Roy Cooper said during a press conference on April 6. That means it won’t require as much “hunting” to find your shot soon.
How it works: There are multiple healthcare systems offering vaccines locally. Each link goes directly to a site to register and either get on a waitlist or secure an appointment.
Pro tips: Because open vaccine appointments are hard to find, vaccine hunters are scouring the internet to do some of the heavy lifting for you. Here are some of their tips:
- Plug in. Follow WSOC reporter Joe Bruno on Twitter for daily updates on open appointments. Or join a vaccine hunter Facebook group like NC/SC Vaccine Hunters.
- Keep checking. Appointments are added and cancelled all the time. Keep refreshing to find openings.
- Search during off hours. Fewer people are looking for appointments late at night or early in the morning. Vaccine hunters tell me you’re more likely to find an opening between midnight and 8am.
- Be patient, especially if you’re looking for a waste dose. Because vaccines have to be used within a certain period of time, some people look for waste doses, which would otherwise have to be thrown out at the end of the day. But don’t annoy pharmacists with frequent calls about leftovers. Instead, ask to join any waitlist they might have.
- Road trip. Sometimes rural counties have more open appointments than urban areas. If you’re willing to drive an hour or so, this is a good option.
Here are a few other frequently asked questions about the vaccine:
When will the vaccine be widely available to everyone?
In North Carolina all individuals ages 16 an dup (Group 5) are eligible for a COVID vaccine as of April 7.
But: Demand still outweighs supply. Independent physicians, for example, are still waiting for their vaccine supply. Advocates say these doctors could play an important role in speeding up the vaccination process. [Go deeper]
How do we know which vaccine to get? (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.)
You likely won’t have a choice in which vaccine you get.
Note: The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at extremely cold temperatures, but the Moderna vaccine can be stored in a standard refrigerator. Because of the storage requirements, more rural healthcare systems are receiving Moderna vaccines. Hospitals in larger areas with more resources are better equipped to store the Pfizer vaccine.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can be stored in a standard refrigerator.
Will it be mandatory?
The Covid vaccine will not be required by the federal government.
State governments and employers may require the vaccine for specific groups, however, like students or healthcare workers. Vaccine requirements are common. North Carolina kindergartners, for example, are required to have nine vaccines.
Employers can also require the vaccine, but most probably won’t.
What can you say to people who are afraid of taking the vaccine?
Early data show the vaccines in the final stages of testing are effective with minimal side effects. Pfizer reports being 95 percent effective against COVID-19 with no serious safety concerns.
Here’s what Atrium infectious disease physician Dr. Lewis McCurdy had to say: “Immunizations have really made the world a safer place. My hope is that people will step up and take the vaccine, because I do think it’s going to be a significant way to reduce the length this pandemic.”
Learn more about Operation Warp Speed and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to develop a safe vaccine.
If you’ve had COVID-19 (or have the antibodies), should you get the vaccine?
Yes, according to medical experts including the CDC.
It’s unclear how long natural immunity to COVID-19 lasts after infection. There are examples of people being infected with COVID-19 twice, however, including in Mecklenburg County.
How many shots will the vaccine require?
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both requires two shots. The shots are spaced three to four weeks apart.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot.
What are the side effects?
Common side effects include pain and swelling at the injection site, and fever, chills, fatigue, and headache. Learn more about side effects here.
Has it been tested on children?
There hasn’t been a COVID-19 vaccine approved for children, but clinical trials are underway.
Should I get the vaccine if I’m pregnant?
The vaccine is available to pregnant and breastfeeding adults, but there is limited data on overall safety and side effects. The CDC has this list of considerations for pregnant and breastfeeding adults.
Would you recommend a healthy and young person get the vaccine? Why?
Medical professionals recommend that everyone take the vaccine when it’s available to them. While the majority of young, healthy people have less severe reactions to coronavirus, that’s not always the case. Additionally, young, healthy people are still able to spread the virus to those who are at risk for severe symptoms.
Is an effective vaccine going to put an end to statewide restrictions? What is the end goal?
Some restrictions have already been lifted as the result of improving COVID metrics and increased vaccinations. But, until we reach herd immunity, which means enough people in the community have the antibodies to fight the virus, some level of restrictions will stay in place.
For more on information check out all the latest on coronavirus in Charlotte here.