By Elisabeth Buchwald
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that frontline health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should comprise the first batch of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Next in line should be people over the age of 75, and non-health care essential workers including first responders, grocery store workers, teachers and transportation workers, the CDC said.
The third batch: people aged 65–74 years, and those aged 16–64 years with high-risk medical conditions, and any essential workers not included in the first two batches.
But while all states are following the first batch of vaccinations to the letter, not every state is sticking to these guidelines after that.
In fact, only 14 states are rigidly sticking to all of the CDC’s recommendations for who should be included in the second-tier priority group for vaccinations, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Most states have included adults above 65 in this group.
And only 12 states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin) are sticking to all of the CDC’s recommendations across the three priority levels.
“In some cases, states are broadening and simplifying the priority groups, the report states. “But, in other cases, states are creating new and more complex priority groupings.”
That could “lead to greater difficulty in implementing vaccine distribution plans and make it harder to communicate those plans to the public,” the report concluded.
“Access to COVID-19 vaccines in these first months of the U.S. vaccine campaign may depend a great deal on where one lives,” it added.
• 10 states include additional first responders beyond those working directly in health (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming).
• 4 states add seniors to first batch of vaccinations, including people 65 and older (Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and West Virginia).
• In Utah teachers and child care workers were among the first people to receive coronavirus vaccines, along with health care workers and long-term care residents. In neighboring states, teachers and child care workers may have to wait several months to get vaccinated.
• Law enforcement officers and firefighters in 10 states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming — are included in the first-tier vaccination group.
• Tennessee is including people who cannot live independently and people over the age of 75 in its first-tier priority group.
• In Massachusetts and New Jersey, people who are incarcerated are receiving priority access.
The Kaiser Family Foundation or KFF is a non-profit organization, headquartered in San Francisco, Calif.
“The recommendations were made with these goals in mind: decrease death and serious disease as much as possible; preserve functioning of society; [and] reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities,” the CDC notes.
States aren’t required to follow the committee’s recommendations, but health experts are urging governors to stick to ACIP’s recommendations going forward because it gives them a science-based framework to follow that can ultimately help end the pandemic more swiftly.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia are vaccinating health care workers and long-term care residents first, as recommended by ACIP. But at least 16 states are allowing other groups to get vaccinated simultaneously, according to an analysis published Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit health-care think tank.
“In some cases, states are broadening and simplifying the priority groups. But, in other cases, states are creating new and more complex priority groupings,” the Kaiser Family Foundation researchers wrote.
“As with many decisions regarding how best to respond to the pandemic, there are trade-offs here,” they added. “Identifying specific priority groups may more effectively target a limited supply of vaccines, but also lead to greater difficulty in implementing vaccine distribution plans and make it harder to communicate those plans to the public.”