COVID-19 vaccine eligibility expands to 16 and over in North Carolina on Wednesday

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Beginning Wednesday, everyone aged 16 and up will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina.

Dr. West Paul, Chief Clinical Officer at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, says they have given more than 80,000 vaccines and the health department has given another 40,000 to 50,000.

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“We’re not like other counties, we don’t have huge numbers of open slots and no one wants a vaccine,” Dr. Paul said. “I think that’s a testament to the community around our health system.”

As the eligibility expands and more people are getting vaccinated, Dr. Paul expects the demand to remain high.

“As people see their friends get it and see them do well with it, I think that has helped a lot. It’s really that personal information and interaction that really helps,” he said.

Noting that well over 100,000,000 people in the US have received the vaccine, Dr. Paul emphasizes the safety of this vaccine.

“All of them have been monitored,” he said. “We have an incredible safety record with that. It’s probably the most well-studied prescription drug of all time at this time. So when people bring up ‘I’m going to wait and see,’ I’ll tell you this is 100,000,000 people taking a vaccine and having all of that data, which is really transparent.”

As of right now, he says he doesn’t know of a safer medication and he has not seen any severe reactions in New Hanover County, noting that he has seen more reactions from the seasonal flu vaccine.

The current studies suggest all three vaccines are effective against variants and immunity lasts at least six months after receiving the vaccine, but Dr. Paul explains that’s just because that’s how long the vaccine has been available.

“Every time we have checked, those people that have had the vaccinations are still immune so that clock keeps running,” he said.

Dr. Paul says there has been a dramatic drop in COVID-19 patients in the hospital. With hospitalization numbers at their lowest in the last six to eight months, he credits the low numbers largely to vaccine distribution.

“We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel,” he said. So it’s important we all continue to do what we need to do.”

NHRMC announces when new COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available. When scheduling is open, you can register for an appointment by visiting here or by calling (910) 662-2020.

NHRMC also has an email list available for anyone to sign up to receive notifications when COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available. To sign up, visit here.