Cohen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, made the announcement during a video conference with other state health leaders discussing life in the workplace after COVID-19.
North Carolina will begin accepting appointments for Group 4 vaccinations Wednesday, one week ahead of Gov. Roy Cooper's original schedule. Several counties in the Charlotte area, including Cabarrus and Rowan, started accepting appointments Wednesday to help speed up the process for those still waiting.
Group 4 includes adults of any age with an underlying health condition that puts them at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Group 4 also includes front-line workers who were left out of Group 3.
"Everything from diabetes to heart disease and cancer," Cohen said. "Obesity and smoking, too. Any person whose had at least 100 cigarettes in their life. This is going to be a big group."
North Carolina health officials estimate nearly 3 million people will become eligible in Group 4.
"This may be the majority of workers," Cohen said. "At least half of adults in North Carolina have one of these high-risk conditions."
When it comes to employers helping their workers get vaccinated, Cohen cautioned against possible mandates that require employees to get the shot. Instead, she said employers should focus on getting employees good information about vaccines, why they're effective, and even consider incentive programs for employees who are vaccinated.
"My recommendation would be good information, why this works and is safe, and making sure you have time off. Not just for getting the vaccine, but if you feel achy," Cohen said. "Give employees more grace for that.
"I'd avoid mandates at this moment. That feels a little murky, especially at this time."
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.