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All North Carolina adults could be eligible to get vaccinated before May 1

Supply continues to be a limiting factor for vaccine providers. Gov. Roy Cooper was told to expect a bump in supply soon.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in North Carolina so far and state leaders are turning their attention to when every adult will be eligible to roll up their sleeves.

In an update on Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper said the federal government told them to expect a bump in the supply soon. Health Secretary Mandy Cohen said it’s likely every adult in the Tarheel State will be eligible to get vaccinated before May 1. That does not mean that there will be enough vaccines for everyone by May 1.

“We’re working with our vaccine providers right now to understand what they are seeing coming through their doors and as the Governor said, looking at options for potentially even accelerating moving into the next phase of Group 4 and then even 5,” Cohen said. 

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Locally, vaccine providers are still limited by the supply. Of the 4.1 million doses given in North Carolina, more than 205,000 have been given by Novant Health.

“One year ago, it was hard to imagine that our progress would be where it is today,” Nikki Nissen, Vice President of Clinical Operations for Novant Health, said.

Despite putting on mass clinics at the Spectrum Center and Park Expo, partnering with CMS to vaccinate school staff and opening its new clinic off of East Independence Boulevard just for COVID-19 vaccinations, Novant Health is short of its original goal to give out 1 million shots by April 1. The lagging supply is the limiting factor.

“We get doses and we give every single one of them and the state has asked us to do that so we just continue on that path,” Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said.

Priest can't predict when that goal will be met but is hopeful that a surge in Johnson & Johnson vaccine will help.

"We have seen an increase in our baseline allocation, certainly does not keep up with the number of patients that are in the eligible groups now, but it is increasing so that’s promising,” Nissen said.

Atrium Health also set a goal of giving 1 million doses by July 4, but would not release an updated number of doses the organization has given so far.

It’s a different situation for different vaccine providers across the state. Several counties in the state have already moved into Group 5. Craven, Greene and Rockingham Counties have made all adults eligible.

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The Davidson County Health Director told WCNC Charlotte the phone simply wasn't ringing for appointments anymore, so they opened up eligibility to all adults.

Slowing demand the reason for moving forward in other counties too.

"The first couple of weeks we were doing Groups 1 and 2,600 appointments would go in less than six minutes, then it would take about 12 minutes and then 15. When we opened up to Group 5, those 400 appointments went in a few hours," Trey Wright, the Rockingham County Health Director, told WCNC Charlotte.

All of the counties moving forward are significantly smaller than Mecklenburg County. Rockingham's population is about 91,000 and Davidson County's is 167,000. 

That's compared to Mecklenburg's 1.1 million.

All three counties have about 10% of their population fully vaccinated.

But while the demand for vaccines is still growing in some parts of the state, that will eventually change.

“At some point where will reach a time where we have more supply than demand and we'll really have to work hard to get this vaccine out in a lot of different places and encourage everybody to get this vaccine,” Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Novant Health officials already working on outreach and education and believe the focus on smaller community events will help overcome hesitancy

“I think sometimes say, you only gave 200 doses that time, it’s much more impactful than that, because when you give 200 doses in a well-trusted community organization like a church, that spreads out,” Priest said. “People in that community trust the church, they trust the pastor, they get comfortable with the idea of vaccination and then they tell other people.”

There are some changes to the way the state is allocating vaccines. They’ll be sending more doses to the counties with lower vaccination rates. Mecklenburg County has about 15% of the population vaccinated.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan.

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