Health experts said as long as people are unvaccinated, COVID-19 is still a risk.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Across North Carolina, 7.8 million vaccines have been given, and top health officials want to keep the momentum going, especially after relaxing some COVID-19 restrictions.

As of Friday, people who are fully vaccinated do not have to wear masks inside or outside most places. Gov. Roy Cooper also got rid of capacity requirements and social distancing guidelines.

Health experts say COVID-19 is not gone; metrics show people are still getting sick. Data shows vaccines are working and as long as people are not vaccinated, they’re still at risk.

Carolina Pharmacy manager Kavel Bhathela is drawing up less vaccine than he had been even just a few weeks ago.

“We’re still seeing folks come in, it’s just trickling in compared to before,” he said.

By now, every adult who really wanted a shot has gotten one. Even though the Governor rolled back many restrictions, there’s still a need to get more shots in arms.

“Obviously the hope is to have as many people vaccinated whether you’re 12 to 16 or 16 to 100,” Dr. Lewis McCurdy with Atrium Health said. “We’d like to continue to encourage people to get immunized.”

The sooner more people get shots, the better. As COVID-19 lingers, it will continue to be a threat.

“The more people who get vaccinated, the less chance we have for variants to develop in our communities,” Dr. David Priest with Novant Health said.

But as of last week, 12- to 15-year-olds are able to get the Pfizer vaccine. The age group is a new opportunity. There’s demand and excitement about the shots again.

“I’m very excited,” 14-year-old Jocelyn Gaines told WCNC Charlotte after she got her COVID-19 vaccine at Novant Health’s clinic in East Charlotte. It’s not something many kids say about needles.

But Gaines knows the benefits of getting vaccinated.

“I got my shot because I want to see my friends again,” she said.

A lot of kids her age feel the same way and many rushed out to roll up their sleeves.

“It will just make me feel safer and it seems like a step forward from what we have been through in the past year,” 12-year-old Joey Rising said.

It’s excitement vaccine providers haven’t seen in recent weeks.

Carolina Pharmacy just got its shipments of Pfizer and they’re ready to vaccinate this new age group.

“The 12 and up age group is super important because kids are going to be going back to school in the fall and camp over the summer,” Bhathela said.

And there’s some hope demand could spike again as a result.

“I think it does open up the opportunity to certainly increase a new group of people who can get vaccinated which will help with herd immunity and perhaps it will encourage their older siblings and their parents or grandparents to also come with them to get vaccinated if they haven’t,” McCurdy said.

Lower demand for shots raises another issue too. More doses going to waste than before.

“There are times where we have to toss vaccine and that just is due to the fact that it only lasts several hours after you puncture the vial,” Bhathela said. “We typically will try to ask folks who come in the store have they been vaccinated yet we have extra doses if they want to get it today and that typically works.”

He’s hopeful the interest from teens will help keep doses from going to waste.

There are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated. Anyone who gets a first or second dose through StarMed Healthcare this week will be entered into a raffle for an Xbox.

Link to WCNC article

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.