North Carolina shifts policy on out-of-staters getting COVID-19 vaccine

Tracking The Vaccine

RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTW/WNCN) — North Carolina is shifting its policy on out-of-staters getting a COVID-19 vaccine in the state after updated CDC guidelines.

In a statement sent to WBTW affiliate, WNCN in Raleigh, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said clinics are allowed to turn away anyone trying to get a vaccine in the state who does not live, work, or receive health care in North Carolina.

In the past, North Carolina had allowed it. Now they say local health departments and other providers can turn those people away.

“We all need to get vaccinated, and we have to wait our turn,” said Hannah, a Raleigh resident.

“I think it’s a good idea to stay where they are so everyone can get vaccinated where they are,” said Hassan Elkassem, also from Raleigh.

The CDC and state argue that the virus doesn’t recognize borders and neither could we. The CDC has since updated its guidance, allowing states to turn non-state residents away.

The state said it updated its policy based on that, writing, “it is permissible to not offer vaccine to temporary travelers who do not reside, work, or spend significant time in the North Carolina.” 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said local health departments and providers had been advised of the change. 

The Associated Press found that 1 in 37 people who have been vaccinated in North Carolina were not North Carolina residents.

News13 previously reported that some South Carolina teachers were crossing state lines to get vaccinated in North Carolina — where teachers are eligible to be vaccinated. The South Carolina senate unanimously passed a bill Feb. 9 that would move teachers in South Carolina into the 1a vaccine group, but Gov. Henry McMaster is against moving teachers up in line.

Under the updated policy, people who spend a “significant amount of time” in North Carolina can still be vaccinated in the state. Clinics also may not reject North Carolina residents getting vaccinated in a county they don’t live in.

“We need to really focus on our citizens in North Carolina. Love to save the world but our responsibility is here in this state,” said Bruce Robistow, the director of the Halifax County Health Department. 

His county is very close to the Virginia line. 

“I get emails still (asking) are you taking people from Virginia and my reply is ‘we are prioritizing the citizens in the state of North Carolina.’ There’s not a lot of other ways to truly enforce it because the appointments are online,” Robistow said. 

WNCN asked him if a residency question could be added to their online form. 

“You can, however, you can’t verify,” Robistow said.

The state doesn’t have an ID requirement. 

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