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North Carolina opens Group 4 COVID-19 vaccinations early for some

Group 4 includes people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced Thursday select individuals will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine earlier than expected.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will open some of the Group 4 eligibility March 17. That includes people with select pre-existing health conditions, and those residing in group living facilities.

The essential, front-line workers listed under North Carolina's Group 4 will have to wait until April 7 for eligiblity. 

Cooper credited with anticipated vaccine supply as the reason for the select early start.

LIST: Find out what vaccine group you're in

Group 4 includes people with pre-existing medical conditions that put them at risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Some of these conditions include asthma, diabetes, and obesity. It also includes essential workers, such as retail employees and utility workers, not previously vaccinated.

LIST: Who is eligible under Group 4 in North Carolina

Homeless people living in shelters, incarcerated people, and college students living in dormitories are also eligible under Group 4.

"We support the state’s decision to expand vaccinations to include more of our vulnerable community members, but it’s important to stress that eligibility does not equal availability," a Novant Health spokesperson told WCNC Charlotte after the announcement. "While the arrival of a third vaccine is helping us move more quickly through Groups 2 and 3, we simply do not have the supply to meet current demand. Our teams will continue to work around-the-clock to activate our waitlists, add appointments and begin vaccinating our high-risk adult populations. At Novant Health, our top priority is to get as many shots into arms as quickly, and equitably, as possible."

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.

On Wednesday, Cooper toured the FEMA-supported site in Greensboro and said it's going well.

"More than 3,300 shots were given the first day there. I know there are many efforts across the state getting vaccines to people as quickly and fairly as possible," Cooper said. 

RELATED: 'Our goal is to take the vaccine to people' | Health officials in the Carolinas working to make vaccine access more equitable

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