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COVID-19 Vaccine Information

Please Note: Information is Subject to Change

Please check this page often as WCU leaders are in frequent contact with the UNC System Office and will continue to refine this information as it becomes available. This page was last updated on Friday, January 22.

Western Carolina University officials continue to monitor and evaluate COVID-19 metrics and vaccines on a daily basis and communicate regularly with representatives from Cherokee Indian Hospital, Harris Regional Hospital, Jackson County Public Health, Southwestern Community College and Jackson County Public Schools, as well with representatives from the University of North Carolina System. 

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has published an updated explanation of where higher education faculty and staff fall in the North Carolina Prioritization framework.

Additionally, Western Carolina University has been selected by the UNC System as a regional vaccination site. Planning is underway on this effort and depending upon vaccine availability, WCU’s anticipates the vaccine clinic will open by mid-February. As more details become available campus will be notified.

Frequently Asked Questions

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) is managing the planning and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine with local public health departments and healthcare providers. WCU has applied to become a vaccine provider, but is not yet approved. WCU also will work with regional public health departments and hospitals to assist in vaccination efforts as necessary; however, the University does not have its own vaccine supply, nor does it have the authority to develop its own independent prioritization framework.

To review these guidelines, visit covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.

NCDHHS has established a Vaccine Prioritization Framework with five priority groups (effective Jan. 14).

1 - Health care workers & Long-Term Care staff and residents (active group)

  • Health care workers with in-person patient contact
  • Long-term care staff and residents—people in skilled nursing facilities, adult care homes and continuing care retirement communities

2 - Older adults (active group)

  • Anyone 65 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation.

3 - Frontline essential workers

  • The CDC defines frontline essential workers as workers who are in sectors essential to the functioning of society and who are at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19.

4 - Adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness

  • Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increase risk of severe disease from COVID-19 such as cancer, COPD, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, among others, regardless of living situation.
  • Anyone who is incarcerated or living in other close group living settings who is not already vaccinated due to age, medical condition or job function.
  • Essential workers not yet vaccinated. The CDC defines these as workers in transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, public safety (e.g., engineers) and public health workers.

5 - Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.

There is no longer a separate group or category for education workers. Instead, WCU faculty and staff are eligible for the vaccine based on the Group that applies to that individual.

For example:

  1. A faculty or staff member age 65 or older falls under Group 2 and is eligible for the vaccination now. 
  2. A faculty or staff member who meets the definition of a “frontline essential worker” is eligible under Group 3 (a frontline essential worker is one who “is in a sector essential to the functioning of society and is at substantially higher risk for exposure to COVID-19”). 

There is no longer a separate category prioritizing students. Students become eligible for the vaccine based on the Group into which an individual student falls.  For example:

  1. A student who is age 65 is eligible under Group 2.
  2. A student who does not fall into any other Group would be eligible under Group 5.

WCU has applied to become a vaccine provider. Our application is currently under review. WCU also is working with the UNC System Office and the UNC Collaboratory to receive several ultracold freezers that will allow us to properly store the Pfizer vaccine. Additionally, WCU is working with state and county public health officials to determine how the University can support community vaccination activities.

Once NCDHHS has identified a group as active, you may be eligible for a vaccine. Until WCU is approved as a vaccine provider, you should contact your county public health office; however, please be mindful that local health departments and hospitals are dealing with a large volume of individuals requesting vaccination.

Please do not call a provider for an appointment until your eligible phase is announced.

Several counties in WNC which faculty and staff could use

  • Jackson County – Pre-register by calling 828-631-HELP OR by completing this online form.
  • Buncombe County – Call 828-419-0095 or online
  • Haywood County – Call 828-356-2019 or online
  • Macon County –Call 828-349-2517 or online
  • Swain County – Call 828-488-3198 or online

The vaccine currently is in very limited supply. Health departments and hospitals are prioritizing healthcare workers and persons 65 years and older. Everyone will have a chance to receive a vaccination, but the timeline may be delayed and lengthened in many cases. 

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