NC opens COVID vaccine for Group 3 front-line workers. Exactly who does that include?

Brooke Cain
·5 min read

With the introduction of a one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, North Carolina will open vaccinations to front-line workers in Group 3 starting this week.

Here’s what we know about who will be eligible for a shot and when that starts.

When will Group 3 front-line workers in NC get vaccines?

Gov. Roy Cooper and NC DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen previously planned to open vaccinations for the overall Group 3 on March 10, but because of availability of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, eligibility for Group 3 front-line essential workers now starts Wednesday, March 3.

Can all front-line workers get vaccinated starting March 3?

Most can, but there are a couple of qualifiers.

Starting March 3, front-line workers must be listed in one of eight “essential sectors” (more on that below) and they must be “in-person” at their place of work. In other words, if you are in an “essential sector” but work from home, you will need to wait a bit longer for the vaccine.

Prior to March 3, only school teachers, bus drivers and those working with children were eligible from Group 3. (Some people from Groups 1 and 2 are still being vaccinated, and those people include front-line healthcare workers and those age 65 and over.)

Which workers are considered ‘front-line essential’ workers?

The eight front-line essential sectors, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are: Education, Critical Manufacturing, Essential Goods, Food and Agriculture, Government & Community Services, Health Care & Public Health, Public Safety and Transportation. Here are details on those sectors.

Education: Starting March 3, this group will include college and university instructors, plus support staff. (PreK-12 teachers and support staff are already eligible.)

Critical Manufacturing: This group includes workers at facilities that manufacture medical supplies, medical equipment or PPE; and also workers who manufacture products needed for food and agricultural supply chains.

Essential Goods: These are people who work in stores that sell groceries and/or medicine.

Food & Agriculture: Examples from this group include restaurant (and bar / tavern) workers, farm workers, meat-packing workers, migrant farm or fisher workers, and food distribution and supply chain workers.

Government & Community Services: Examples of workers from this group include U.S. Postal Service and other shipping/delivery workers, court workers, elected officials, clergy, veterinarians (including staff and students), and homeless shelter staff.

Health Care & Public Health: This will be health care workers not listed in Group 1, including public health workers and social workers.

Public Safety: This group includes firefighters and EMS workers, law enforcement, corrections workers, security officers and public agency workers who respond to cases of abuse and neglect.

Transportation: In this group we have public transit workers, Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) workers, transportation maintenance and repair workers, and workers supporting highway infrastructure.

Which people will be included in Group 4?

Group 4 includes anyone 16-64 years old with one or more high-risk medical conditions for severe disease from COVID-19, people living in close group settings and essential workers (these essential workers are different from Group 3 front-line essential workers.)

1. High-risk medical conditions include:

  • Asthma (moderate to severe)

  • Cancer

  • Cerebrovascular disease or history of stroke

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Dementia or other neurologic condition

  • Diabetes type 1 or 2

  • Down Syndrome

  • A heart condition such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy

  • Hypertension or high blood pressure

  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from: immune deficiencies, HIV, taking chronic steroids or other immune weakening medicines, history of solid organ blood or bone marrow transplant

  • Liver disease, including hepatitis

  • Pulmonary fibrosis

  • Overweight or obesity

  • Pregnancy

  • Sickle cell disease (not including sickle cell trait) or thalassemia

  • Smoking (current or former, defined as having smoked at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime)

2. People living in a close group setting include those living in homeless shelters and those in correctional facilities, such as jail or prison. (Note that those living in nursing homes and assisted living centers were included in previous groups.)

3. Essential workers who did not meet “front line” criteria in Group 3 are included in Group 4. Group 4 Essential workers include those working in the following industries:

Chemical (including workers in petrochemical plants, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceutical facilities, consumer products)

Commercial facilities (including retail workers, hotel workers)

Communications and information technology (including news reporters and staff, service repair dispatchers, data center operators)

Defense industrial base (including workers supporting essential services to meet national security commitments)

Energy (including electric, petroleum, natural and propane gas workers)

Financial services (including workers who maintain systems for processing financial transactions, workers needed to provide consumer access to banking and lending services)

Hazardous materials (including nuclear facilities workers, workers managing medical waste)

Hygiene products and services (including laundromats, sanitation workers)

Public works and infrastructure support services (including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, workers supporting parks)

Residential facilities, housing and real estate

Water and wastewater (including staff at water authorities, wastewater treatment facilities, water sampling and monitoring)

When do Group 4 vaccinations start?

The subset of Group 4 that includes people with high risk medical conditions will be eligible starting March 24.

If I’m eligible on March 3, will I be able to get the shot then?

Just because you’re eligible on a certain date doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get a vaccination or an appointment on that date. There are still limitations on the number of vaccines available, but it’s getting better.

How do I sign up to get a vaccine?

The COVID-19 Vaccination information page on the DHHS website can help you find places offering the vaccine.

▪ You should also check with your county health department to learn about its process for signing up.

▪ Contact your primary care physician for information on how your provider — groups such as UNC Health, Duke Health, WakeMed Health, etc. — accept appointments for vaccinations.