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High-risk women in Group 4 relieved to get COVID vaccine sooner

It brings a lot of relief for people like Vanessa Ramos and Carmen Monroe who have been isolating at home during the pandemic due to their health conditions.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina will open COVID-19 vaccinations for people with high risk medical conditions a week earlier than expected on March 17.

Governor Roy Cooper announced the move to Group 4 during a press conference Thursday.

"It means a lot to me because I know that I will have the first dose of protection and I no longer have to fear leaving my house," Carmen Monroe said.

Monroe is a Greensboro resident diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer in January.

"Dealing with this during a pandemic without a vaccination made my anxiety even higher," Monroe said.

She stayed home for months leading up to a surgery earlier this week. She knew her cancer diagnosis puts her at higher risk for severe coronavirus complications.

"Basically I’ve been incarcerated in my own home out of simply wanting to protect myself," Monroe said.

She is recovering well from her surgery and is set to begin radiation therapy early next month.

Monroe hopes she will be able to get her first dose before beginning her treatment.

"Emotionally, I will be handling my cancer treatment better because I know that I am vaccinated," Monroe said.

Others in Group 4 are also looking forward to scheduling appointments.

"I’m just so happy," Vanessa Ramos said, "I’m going to schedule ASAP. As soon as they open up I’m going to be in that line to get it."

She lives in Winston-Salem.

Ramos has several health conditions that put her at high risk for COVID-19 complications including high blood pressure, asthma and obesity. 

She and her family also tested positive for coronavirus in November.

"That was the scariest moment of my life. I asked (the doctor) what my odds were and he said they were against me," Ramos said.

She along with her husband, father and children did not need to be hospitalized during their illnesses, she said.

Months later she lives in fear of contracting the virus again.

"My kids go to school and I’m so worried that they’re going to catch it and bring it back," Ramos said, "My husband works at a grocery store so he’s around a lot of people that sometimes don’t even wear masks and he could bring it home it’s nerve-racking."

Ramos' husband is scheduled to get his vaccine later this week as an essential worker under Group 3. Monroe's husband, who was eligible under Group 2, gets his second dose this weekend.

Both women are relieved that soon they will be able to get protection against coronavirus. 

Monroe said she can see the vaccine rollout moving faster than when her husband began seeking his shots.

"It’s a faster pace now and that makes me happy. I hope that everyone gets to get vaccinated," Monroe said.

People who live in congregate living facilities like shelters and jails will also be eligible for the vaccine on March 17.

Essential workers not yet vaccinated will be eligible April 7.

You can find a closer look at who's in Group 4 here.