Like other states, North Carolina is implementing a phased approach to Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Originally, disabled adults were designed to be in Phase 2 of the State’s vaccination plan. But, the State revised its guidance following recommendations from the Federal Government. Now, North Carolina is expanding vaccinations to adults 65+, frontline and general healthcare workers.
Disability advocates have been critical of this guidance, highlighting the millions of Americans with intellectual or developmental disabilities who are at significantly higher risk of contracting or dying from Covid-19.
As disability lawyers, we help thousands of people access disability benefits in North Carolina. We believe disabled adults and the caregivers who support them should have priority access to a Covid-19 vaccine.
What Can We Do Now?
We expect high risk individuals to be eligible for a vaccine in the state’s next phase. However, some disabled adults or their caregivers MAY be eligible for a vaccine right now. If you are disabled or caring for a disabled adult, you must meet the following guidelines to be eligible:
- Be 65 years or older
- Be a health care worker of any age that lives, works full or part-time, or volunteers in a healthcare or long-term care setting. A health care setting includes hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health or home care, testing or vaccination sites, emergency medical services, public health clinical services, mortuaries and pharmacies. A long-term care setting includes adult care homes, assisted living centers, skilled nursing centers, in-patient hospice facilities, continuing care retirement communities and group homes.
If you are the primary caregiver for an disabled adult at home, you are considered a home care worker. To learn more or to verify your eligibility, visit NC’s new tool, “Find My Vaccine Group.”
I’m Eligible, Now What?
Once you are eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine, you’ll want to prepare for what comes next. Step one is to visit this website:
Once on the website, scroll down to the bottom of the page until you reach a blue table. The table will contain the names of each North Carolina county in alphabetical order. Find the county of your choice and then write down the information associated with each of your target locations. The chart looks like this:
Next up, you’ll want to get straight to work, visiting any designated websites or Facebook pages associated with your county. You should also google local news sources as they very often are the first to report on available appointments or mass vaccination events in a county. Make sure to bookmark the sites on your browser or just keep them open so they’re easy to find in the future should you need to check daily.
While you’re researching online, you can also attempt to call your County Department of Health and schedule an appointment by phone. Hold times at most health departments can be long and frustrating, so most people have better success booking online when spots open.
Remember, the State sends new vaccine supplies weekly. Supply should improve over time and in many counties, there are multiple vaccine distribution sources. New appointments are opened each week, barring additional delays or supply issues. Check back frequently, stay calm and above all, stay persistent.
Last but not least, it’s very important to check EACH county’s eligibility requirements to ensure qualifies for a vaccine. As an example, while the State of North Carolina has opened Phase Two for adults 65+ and health professionals, some counties may still restrict vaccines to Phase 1 or adults 75+ due to logistical issues or low supply.
Ready to Register?
Now that you’ve been patient and regularly checked local news sources, you note that a Health Department in your county is opening vaccine scheduling online the next day.
Ready for action? Here’s what you need to do:
– Make sure your computer is connected to the internet and plugged in!
– Get to the website about 10 minutes early. Familiarize yourself with the form so you know exactly where to go and how to input information.
– Make sure you have your date of birth and full mailing address handy. Also make sure you have a list of any chronic health issues you may have that places you in a Covid-19 high risk category. You will also need an email address and phone number if possible for text updates or appointment confirmations.
– Starting about two minutes before the time appointments open, refresh your browser every 15 seconds or so. (We’re not sure this actually helps, but it did help us stay sane and kept our fingers nimble!)
-When appointments open online, you’ll note that the drop down for a particular day will no longer say ‘no appointments available.’ Instead, you’ll see a list of available times and days. Click on one that works for you, but we recommend that you be as flexible as possible. This is a time for urgency, not convenience.
-Proceed through the form, answering a few questions as prompted. Finally, press confirm.
IMPORTANT: After completing your form, you may notice that the time you originally selected is no longer available. If that’s the case, the system will not allow you to press ‘confirm’ and you may note that the time appears grey. That’s simply because someone completed a form before you submitted yours for the same time. Just scroll back up to the top and select another time and then confirm. Again, you’ll have better luck if you can be absolutely flexible on your time.
In conclusion, the key to scheduling a Covid-19 vaccine appointment online in North Carolina is to focus on several counties, to monitor announcements regularly and to quickly prepare for action once appointments are announced.
Some counties allow you to sign up for text reminders or a waiting list. We encourage you to do this, even if the wait seems quite long at first. As supply improves, more appointments will open.
And finally, if you are a patient at one of one of the large North Carolina health systems like Atrium or Novant, you may find a link to schedule a vaccine appointment in your electronic health record.
While these appointments may be several weeks away, they do present another option.
We wish you the best of luck in scheduling an appointment online and hope this blog alleviates some stress and hastens your journey. Until then, stay safe and healthy.
Your friends at Collins Price.