There’s been a lot of discussion at the state and national level lately about – in light of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots being highly encouraged – whether those who’ve previously been considered “fully vaccinated” should be considered so anymore.

The State of North Carolina just made a subtle change in the terminology it uses to report coronavirus stats and it could be a precursor of bigger things to come.

The state uses a web-based tool – its COVID-19 “Dashboard” to report a wide variety of coronavirus stats for the state and its counties. On Thursday, Jan.13, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced in a press release that it was changing the dashboard’s “Fully Vaccinated” category to “Vaccinated with Two Doses or One Dose J&J.”

Since the federal and state government has begun requesting everyone to get a booster shot, many people – including a host of government health officials – have been questioning whether a person who met the initial criteria for being “fully vaccinated” should still be classified in that way.  They have argued that someone would have to have their initial shot or shots, plus a booster, in order to truly qualify as “fully vaccinated.

 The NCDHHS stated the reason for the Dashboard terminology change is “to better show how many people in North Carolina are up to date with current COVID-19 vaccination recommendations” – but some see the move as a clue that the “fully vaccinated” status may in the future require more than two doses of vaccine or more than one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

A January 13  press release reporting the change goes on to say, “These additional data will help NCDHHS provide better transparency for vaccinations and additional and booster doses administered across the state.”

The release from NCDHHS states that “The dashboard shows the percent of people who have: received at least one or two doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series (Pfizer and Moderna); one dose of a one-dose series (Johnson & Johnson); and, now, vaccinated individuals who have received at least one booster/additional dose.”

The booster and additional dose data will now be shown by population group (5 years of age and up, 12 and up, 18 and up and those 65 and over) “to reflect the percent of the vaccinated population who is eligible and has received at least one additional/booster dose.”