Gaber in UREC
Chancellor Gaber hands a t-shirt to a student in the University Recreation Center while welcoming students back to in-person learning on February 22, 2021. 

As COVID-19 vaccination distribution ramps up, it remains unclear when the University will inoculate UNC Charlotte students.

“The University is working closely with Mecklenburg County on the distribution of the vaccine to our employees and students, following the ordered groups the state has outlined,” explained Chancellor Sharon Gaber in a welcome back message to the community. “Right now, it is still unclear exactly when everyone will be able to receive the shot, but we will share more information with you as soon as we receive it.”

North Carolina currently ranks as the 39th most efficient state for COVID-19 vaccinations in terms of the percentage of state residents who have received at least one vaccine dose. As of Feb. 26, 13% of state residents had received at least one vaccine dose, and 79% of delivered doses had been used. The current North Carolina vaccine distribution plan only allows Group 1 and 2 individuals (frontline healthcare workers, people aged 65+, and long-term care residents and staff) to be vaccinated. On Feb. 10, the state announced limited vaccine eligibility for Group 3, which is made up of frontline essential workers, beginning on Feb. 24. UNC Charlotte students employed in either childcare or the PreK-12 education system are eligible to receive their vaccine.

Originally, UNC Charlotte students could have been receiving the vaccines a lot sooner. According to an Associated Press report from Jan. 14, the original NC vaccination distribution plan prioritized college and high school students aged 16+ but was modified to simplify vaccine rollout. The new plan lowered the eligibility age of seniors who could receive the vaccine from 75 to 65 and moved students from their prioritized position in Phase 3 to the general population as part of Phase 4.

Other states have established provisions allowing for younger residents to be vaccinated. New Mexico, the second-best performing state in terms of vaccinations, is currently vaccinating residents aged 16 and older who have underlying conditions. As it stands, North Carolinians who are currently unable to be vaccinated are waiting for Group 4 (adults at high risk of exposure and medical complications) or Group 5 (the general population) to become eligible before receiving their vaccine.

Wasted vaccines are another major challenge with current distribution plans. Vaccine waste statistics are limited, but according to a WCNC Charlotte report, an estimated 1,100 doses have been thrown out since early February in North Carolina alone.

UNC Charlotte does not currently have plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine, but Gaber encouraged students to retain the vaccination cards if they can be inoculated.

“It is our goal to open the campus as fully as possible this fall, which largely will be dependent on a significant percentage of our population receiving the vaccine,” said Gaber.

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