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Thousands of educators already vaccinated in North Carolina as state moves to Group 3

In Mecklenburg County, the overwhelming majority of vaccines given on Wednesday were to educators.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Wednesday, 240,000 more North Carolinians became eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The state officially moved into Group 3 of vaccine prioritizations, starting with childcare workers and school staff in a pre-k to 12 setting.

Across the state, thousands rolled up their sleeves.

In Mecklenburg County, health officials said there’s been an overwhelming response from educators. Now that CMS is back in the classroom a lot of people are desperate for that extra layer of protection. Out of the 850 appointments held at the Bojangles Coliseum and Medic Headquarters, about 755 of them were for educators or school staff members.

“It’s just an honor to get bumped up because teachers are so important in this world and they educate our future leaders of tomorrow,” Jeffrey Swicegood, a teacher at Charlotte Christian, said. 

It’s a shot of relief for many educators.

“Even with plexiglass up and masks on and distancing, for me there’s been this constant fear of what if,” Andrea Downs, a Providence Day School teacher, said. “I already scheduled my second dose and I feel a little bit better about what’s going on and I hope everyone can get the vaccine.”

She's lucky, many educators will be getting a lesson in patience. The state opened vaccinations up to another quarter of a million people, but the supply isn't keeping pace.

“We have a large number of eligible educators right now in our county and only a certain number of the vaccine,” Dr. Meg Sullivan with the Mecklenburg County Health Department said. 

RELATED: Where to receive your coronavirus vaccine in the Carolinas

Anyone who works in a face-to-face setting with students in a public, private, or charter school is eligible. That includes cafeteria workers, bus drivers and principals.

Late Tuesday, CMS employees were notified via email that Novant Health would be setting aside several appointments for them on select days at two different locations. Those were booked up in a matter of minutes.

On Saturday, 450 people will get vaccinated at McClintock Middle School and starting on Thursday, there will be blocks of time for CMS employees at the new permanent vaccination clinic on East Independence Boulevard.

“This facility really gives us the ability on a regular basis day after day to get as many shots in arms as possible relative to our supply,” John Howard with Novant Health, said. 

Just because the state is moving into Group 3 doesn't mean Groups 1 and 2 are finished.

“We have worked hard and vaccinated several, several, several thousand but also feel confident that we have not vaccinated everyone that needs to be vaccinated,” Sullivan said of people 65 and older.

RELATED: 'I had called 67 times': Teaches are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, but appointments aren't easy

Vaccine providers can't do much to keep people in Group 3 from skipping ahead of those in Groups 1 or 2.

“I would encourage whether its older individuals or teachers to continue to check back because often there are appointments added and changes made and it really is kind of first come first serve when those changes happen,” Dr. Katie Passaretti with Atrium Health said. 

Governor Roy Cooper said more than half of the 65 and older population in the state has been vaccinated.

Have a relative or friend in another state and want to know when they can get vaccinated? Visit NBC News' Plan Your Vaccine site to find out about each state's vaccine rollout plan. (edited)