NCDHHS Vaccine Advisory Committee Releases Prioritization Update

DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen • Photo by Charlotte Observer

NCDHHS Vaccine Advisory Committee Releases Prioritization Update

January 18, 2021

On Friday, January 15, 2021, North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) Vaccine Advisory Committee presented updates on COVID-19 vaccine prioritization operational guidance for frontline essential workers. Lu-Ann Perryman with DLC & Associates, Inc. serves on the committee's Vaccine Task Force and shared the presentation slides with NCMA.

Prioritization Categories

Effective January 12, 2021, North Carolina's Vaccine Plan has updated and simplified the prioritization categories. For example, Frontline Essential Workers are now identified as Group 3 instead of Phase 1b which included multiple group subdivisions. Effectively, all frontline essential workers (Group 3) are in line behind health care workers (Group 1) and people aged 65 years or older (Group 2). The previous vaccine plan divided frontline essential workers in one group for workers aged 50 years and over (Phase 1b Group 2) followed by essential workers of any age (Phase 1b Group 3).

Group 3: Frontline Essential Workers

To determine if frontline essential workers are eligible for vaccine in Group 3, the Vaccine Committee has developed two screening questions:

  1. Do you have to be in-person at your work site AND be within 6 feet of others?
  2. Do you work in one of the essential sectors that align with federal prioritization guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?

Question 2 does not explicitly reference  alignment between CDC guidance and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) essential worker list. The CISA criteria was used in previous Stay at Home Orders issued by Governor Cooper to determine which workers were allowed to continue work. The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19. The NCDHHS Vaccine Advisory Committee breaks this definition down into 8 essential sectors:

  1. Health Care and Public Health (workers with in-person patient contact, social workers, caregivers, mortuary service providers)
  2. Public Safety (firefighters, police, correction workers, security officers)
  3. Food and Agriculture (Meat packing, food processing, Farmworkers, good distribution and supply chain, restaurant workers)
  4. Government and Community Services (Postal workers, court workers, elected officials, clergy, homeless shelter staff)
  5. Essential Goods (workers who sell groceries and medicine)
  6. Critical Manufacturing (workers manufacturing medical supplies, medical equipment or PPE and workers manufacturing products needed for food and agricultural supply chains)
  7. Transportation (public transit workers, Division of Motor Vehicles workers, transportation maintenance and repair)
  8. Education (child care staff, K-12 teachers and support staff, higher education instructors)

Screening Questions for Frontline Essential Workers

The updated Vaccine Plan anticipates a structure that relies on employers to identify which of their employees will be vaccinated based on the screening criteria itemized above or self-attestation. To what degree self-attestation would be acceptable is not described. The Vaccine Advisory Committee  presentation references use of a template that employers would complete and give to vaccine providers for employee preregistration. The template should be posted on the DHHS Website at some point prior to Group 3 activation, but is not yet available.

North Carolina is using a secure data system called the COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) to manage the distribution of vaccines. The CVMS portal is designed to allow vaccine providers and vaccine recipients, including employers to interact as priority sectors are made active.

About NCIOM and the Vaccine Advisory Committee

The NCIOM is an independent, quasi-state agency that was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1983 to provide balanced, nonpartisan information on issues of relevance to the health of North Carolina's population. The NCIOM convened the NC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee to provide feedback to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) on its COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.


Vaccine Advisory Committee Presentation 
January 15, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccine Management System (CVMS) Orientation 
CVMS introduction on DHHS Immunization Branch Website

DHHS COVID-19 Vaccine Plan Website 
Updated information on North Carolina's management of vaccines