N.C. shifting policy on vaccines for visitors from out of state

N.C. shifting policy on vaccines for visitors from out of state
(Source: WBTV File)

RALEIGH (WRAL/WMBF) - North Carolina has shifted its policy on vaccinating people from across state lines, saying vaccine providers no longer have to offer coronavirus inoculations to people who don’t live, work or spend “significant time” in North Carolina, according to our news partner in Raleigh, WRAL.

The move follows a shift in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance last week – guidance that top state health officials said once required vaccinators to take all comers, provided they met the state’s tiered vaccine eligibility plan.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said 2.72% of the first 1.1 million first doses administered in North Carolina went to non-residents. That works out to just under 30,000 shots.

It’s not clear how many of those people traveled to North Carolina just to get the vaccine, as opposed to working in the state or staying in North Carolina long-term despite having a home address somewhere else. But there are some indications of “vaccine tourism,” with people crossing into North Carolina just to get a shot.

WMBF Investigates took a closer look at vaccine tourism, due to the fact that a number of snowbirds have been able to get the vaccine while just staying in South Carolina for a few months out of the year.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control has stated that there is no need for proof of residency in order to get a vaccine.

As of Feb. 14, DHEC’s demographic dashboard shows out of 696,008 of the administered vaccines, 19,312 were given to someone who lives in North Carolina, Georgia or another state. That’s about 2.7% of the vaccines administered.

We also reached out to North Carolina state health officials about its out-of-state vaccine policy during our investigation.

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services said that it offered vaccines to everyone who was eligible stating -- “Federal law prohibits restricting access to the vaccine based on jurisdiction. Vaccines are a federal resource and as we know, this virus does not recognize county or state lines. All North Carolinians will benefit from as many eligible people as possible receiving the vaccine as quickly as they are able.”

But the CDC’s guidance on this shifted last week, and state officials confirmed Monday that North Carolina will shift with them, though it seems local health departments, hospitals and pharmacies offering shots get the final say.

It’s not clear at this point if DHEC will change it’s out-of-state policy based on the new guidance by the CDC.

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