US experts Mull Over Who Should be Vaccinated Next?

Having health care workers and nursing home residents being first in line for the initial, limited supplies of COVID-19 shots was the obvious choice, but now U.S. health officials are deciding who should be next, local and state officials are saying.

From senior citizens, teachers, transit workers and supermarket employees to those who are high risk — who should receive it in the next few months as more vaccines come online? That was the question asked as a federal panel of vaccination experts took up that question at an emergency meeting this weekend, according to an Associated Press article. And while states can determine who should be first in line, the discussion was still noteworthy.

The panel members are leaning toward putting “essential workers” next in line because people like bus drivers, grocery store clerks and others who perform vital jobs that can’t be done from home are the ones getting infected most often, the article stated. That is also where concerns about racial inequities in the crisis are at the forefront as many essential workers are Black and Hispanic.

Yet other experts say people 65 and older should be next, along with people with certain medical conditions. This group of people are the ones who are dying at the highest rates, they added.

The panel is scheduled to vote on the proposal Sunday.

“I think we know this isn’t going to be perfect. We don’t have vaccine for everyone right away, so we’re going to have to make difficult decisions,” Claire Hannan, executive director of an organization that represents managers of state vaccination programs, told the AP.

If essential workers are next in line, states have different notions about who among that group should be closer to the front of the line.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told the AP that he believes priority should be given to people 70 and older who live with children or grandchildren.

Also, according to the article, most states followed the panel’s recommendation that health care workers and nursing home residents get the very first doses.

State-to-state variations are likely to increase in the next-priority groups, said the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jennifer Kates, who has been analyzing state vaccination plans, according to the article.

“I think we’re going to see states falling out in different ways,” with some putting older people ahead of essential workers, Kates said to AP.

Of course, when more vaccine comes out, “the issue of priority becomes less important,” said Dr. Eric Toner, a Johns Hopkins University scientist who has written about possible vaccination prioritization frameworks.

“The bottom line is we just need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can,” he said in the article.

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