Petition to the NC COVID Vaccine Advisory Committee

{Note: this letter was written by me and Andrea Lytle Peet, and co-signed by over 50 people with ALS and their caregivers in NC, to petition for higher priority access to COVID vaccines for people with ALS and others with high-risk medical conditions.}

February 5, 2021

Dear Members of the NC COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee,

We write to you as a group of NC citizens in a high-risk medical category, to petition you to press the NC DHHS to reconsider its prioritization plan for access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Though we represent only one rare disease — all of us are living with the neurological disease ALS (or are caregivers) – we advance an argument that speaks to the urgent needs of many other North Carolinians living with other serious medical conditions.

At present, the portion of the NC population most at risk of dying or developing severe complications from COVID (“Adults at High Risk of Exposure and Increased Risk of Severe Illness”) are (unless a health care worker, resident or staff in a long-term care setting, over the age of 64, or an essential frontline worker) relegated to category 4, only one level above the general population, and below a number of other categories.[1]

We are, moreover, disappointed to learn that the current prioritization plan is the result of a change made in January 2021 that demoted people with high-risk medical conditions from category 2.2 to category 4.[2] The earlier plan had placed people with high-risk medical conditions ahead of (non-frontline) essential workers.[3] 

The new NC prioritization protocol is at variance with the spirit of CDC guidelines[4], which places people at high risk in the same category (1c) as “other essential workers” and the general population age 65 and over.   Those same CDC guidelines list as one of three goals  to “decrease death and serious disease as much as possible,” which clearly signals the ethical imperative to prioritize people with serious preexisting health conditions. 

We do not see the logic in prioritizing healthy 65 year olds or the broad category (as North Carolina has defined it) of  “essential workers” over the portion of the population living with high- risk medical conditions. For a patient group like ours, with weakened respiratory functions, exposure to COVID-19 puts us at enormous risk.[5]  Though we are sure that the NC DHHS did not intend to send a message that it puts less value on our lives than those of the healthy population, it is hard not to interpret the revised NC guidelines any other way.[6]

We note as well that some other states have placed their medically high-risk populations nearer to the top of priority groupings, rather than near the bottom. In its ongoing assessment of how states are prioritizing groups, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 19 states include younger adults with high-risk medical conditions in phase 1a or 1b, including six states that have updated their priority groups since mid-January.[7] 

Our understanding is that the prioritization guidelines each state is adopting are living documents and are frequently updated,  as government authorities respond and adapt to new circumstances and knowledge.  We hope that flexibility can facilitate a revision of the NC guidelines in a way that levels the playing field for people living with serious medical conditions.       

We thank you for your service to the community in providing guidance to DHHS on the difficult decisions related to vaccine access. We are grateful for your time and consideration of this request, which is made not just for those of us with ALS, but for all NC residents suffering from high-risk medical conditions.   We hope to hear back from you at your earliest convenience. Our points of contact are Dr. Ken Menkhaus, at, and Andrea Lytle Peet, at


Ken Menkhaus 

Andrea Lytle Peet  

Larry Falivena 

David Lloyd

Ed Rapp 

Dana Baker

Jeanne Luther, and caregiver John Luther

Michael S. Bereman, PhD, and caregiver Meagan Bereman    

Chris Heal, and caregiver Laura Heal

Kristin McCoy

Coral Thorpe

Willie Mae Oldham, and caregivers  Dalton Neal Olham, Christopher Neal Oldham and

Christain Curtis

Nancy Meres

Corinne Crownover, and caregiver Christopher Eckert  

Linda M. Kubis

Randy Floyd 

Margaret Broadwell

Ben Matthews, and caregiver Deborah Matthews

John Chamblin, and caregiver Beth Chamblin

Emily and David Milliot, caregivers to Kathryn Stocum  

Sally Weber

Rubi and Darvin Cante Lemus, caregivers to Jose Flores Cante

Jeff Farlow, and caregiver Elizabeth Farlow  

William Crocker

Pat and Nancy Bowes

Bruce Oberhardt and caregiver Mindy Oberhardt 

Stephen Poe

Roger Faulkner

Roz Skidmore and caregiver Tommy Skidmore

Gary Cole and caregiver Mary Lou Cole  

David M. Williams, Jr, and caregiver Jeanette M. Williams

Lawrence Cepuran  

Thomas Corbett, and caregiver Doris Corbett  

Amy R. Peacock, caregiver

Edith E. Eichler

Marie-France Eloi

Donald W. Wilson, and caregiver Becky Wilson

Roger Friedensen

Gail Hardy, caregiver

James D. Baker, and caregiver Nancy Baker

Kenneth Moffitt

Debra James, and caregiver William James

Randall Keen

Seth Hicks, and caregiver Kimberly Hicks

Napoleon Wallace, and caregiver Edna Wallace

Robert Kubis

Jonathan David Rodden, and caregiver Debby Rogan Rodden

Sebrina Hernandez

[1] Based on the NC DHHS “Find My Vaccine Group” website:

[2] Lexi Wilson, “As North Carolina Expands Who Can Get the COVID-19 Vaccine, Some Are Being Bumped Down the List” WCNC  (January 16 2021)

[3] “NCDHHS  Shares Updated Rollout Plan for COVID-19 Vaccinations” (December 30, 2020)

[4] CDC, “When Vaccine is Limited, Who Should Get Vaccinated First?” (January 21, 2021)

[5] The ALS Association has just sent a letter to CDC  reporting new data from the Veterans Administration confirming that veterans with ALS who contract COVID-19 are three times more likely to die than veterans with COVID-19 who do not have ALS.

[6] We note that other people with disabilities and high-risk medical conditions have objected to vaccine prioritization plans that appear to enshrine discrimination against high-risk populations. See for instance Elliot Kuklas, “Where’s the Vaccine for Ableism?” New York Times (February 4 2021)

[7], Jennifer Tolbert, Jennifer Kates, and Josh Michaud, “The COVID-19 Vaccine Priority Line Continues to Change as States Make Further Updates” (Kaiser Family Foundation, January 21, 2021)


Author: Ken Menkhaus

Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Specialist on Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Interests include development, statebuilding, informal governance systems, peace and conflict studies, and political Islam. I also teach on philanthropy and the non-profit sector.

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