Following a recommendation from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee, the next batch of COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed to senior citizens and certain essential workers.
According to NBC News, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted in favor of the recommendation on Sunday, with the CDC set to give final approval. It’s been less than one week since the first batch—dubbed Phase 1A—began distribution among healthcare workers and people living in nursing homes. Phase 1B, the next planned wave, will be distributed among people age 75 and older as well as essential frontline workers.
What constitutes an “essential frontline worker”? Happy you asked. Obviously, first responders (cops, firefighters, EMTs) make the cut but so do teachers, daycare workers, postal workers, as well as farmers and grocery store employees. In total, Phase 1B consists of 49 million people.
There isn’t a clear timeline for when Phase 1B distributions will begin, as it’s dependent upon how long it takes for the vaccinations in Phase 1A to take place.
Now, you may be wondering why there is a tiered rollout to begin with. Why isn’t it just being sent to Walgreens and CVS the same as the flu vaccines? Well, there simply isn’t enough of the vaccine to go around. This scarcity has led to “difficult choices” being made according to Dr. Kathleen Dooling, an ACIP member.
The committee didn’t just determine who was eligible for each phase through an arbitrary process. They consulted with scientists, ethicists, and vaccination experts in addition to looking at the data, which has consistently shown that older people are more likely to suffer severe complications from the virus.
From NBC News:
Even though the rates of coronavirus infection are highest among young adults, the illness is deadliest among older adults. What’s more, “over the course of this year, adults 75 years and older have accounted for 25 percent of Covid-19-associated hospitalizations, despite making up approximately 8 percent of the population,” Dooling said.
Including front-line essential workers in Phase 1B ensures that individuals who are most likely to be exposed to the virus are protected.
“Front-line workers in particular are unable to work from home and have a high level of interaction with the public or others in the workplace,” Dooling said.
One issue the committee has faced has been addressing the racial disparities stemming from the virus. Black people have been disproportionately affected by the virus, with COVID-19 projected to be the third leading cause of death among Black people this year. While the “essential workers” who are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 1B are more likely to be white, Phase 1C is expected to have more Black and non-white representation.
Speaking of Phase 1C, that group will consist of approximately 129 million people and will include adults aged 65-74 as well as people 16 and older who have underlying conditions that could result in severe complications. Should you have a chronic illness, the committee recommends speaking to your doctor about eligibility for the vaccine.
In addition to those folks, Phase 1C will also include remaining essential workers in fields such as transportation, public safety, water management, banking, law, and several others. The committee noted that these recommendations may need to be adjusted depending on the available supply of the vaccine.
So now that we got through all of that some of you may be thinking “When do I get the vaccine?” Unfortunately, that’s still uncertain as the advisory committee has yet to address that planned rollout.
Clearly, it’s going to be a minute before everyone can have access to the vaccine.
That’s all the more reason to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions throughout the winter. Wash those hands, wear that mask, and please, please don’t gather with your family for the holidays.
Just saying, we all saw the post-Thanksgiving surge. While I love “Last Christmas” by Wham! the same as everybody else, I’d prefer you didn’t try to take the title literally.