These 3 Groups Should Get Vaccinated Next, White House Official Says
"These communities have to be prioritized," Deborah Birx, MD, said.
With COVID vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna showing high efficacy rates in clinical trials and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set to review the former vaccine in days, experts say it won't be long before a COVID vaccine becomes available to Americans. However, with limited supplies available initially, there will be a hierarchy in terms of who gets their vaccine first. While we know healthcare workers and those in nursing homes have been deemed the highest priority with the COVID vaccine, we now have insight into who will follow those groups. Read on to find out who one White House official is recommending, and for more news on the current outbreak, check out Almost All COVID Transmission Is Happening in These 5 Places, Doctor Says.
In a Dec. 8 interview with the The Wall Street Journal, Deborah Birx, MD, who serves as the White House Coronavirus Task Force's coronavirus response coordinator, explained that three groups in particular should have high priority in terms of access to the COVID vaccine, due to their increased risk of comorbidities. During the interview, Angela Williams, president and CEO of Easterseals, a non-profit providing services and advocacy for individuals with disabilities, asked how the government and medical establishments plan to ensure equity in the distribution of the COVID vaccine.
In response, Birx admitted that groups beyond healthcare workers would have to be prioritized based on their risk level. "This vaccine, after the healthcare workers, needs to go to the most vulnerable individuals that are most susceptible to infection, to hospitalization, and mortality," she said. "And we know who, precisely, those are. We know that these are Black and brown communities. We know that these are, critically, Native American communities. And these communities have to be prioritized."
Read on to discover what the next steps will be in getting the vaccine to those who need it most, and for more insight into how experts say we can end the pandemic, Dr. Fauci Says These 2 Places Need to Close Right Now.
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Healthcare workers with comorbidities will be prioritized.
While healthcare workers may be among the first groups to receive the vaccine, Birx explained that there has to be a hierarchy of needs within the healthcare community, too. "Healthcare workers that have vulnerabilities—hypertension, diabetes, obesity—no matter where they work in the system… if they have exposure risk, which they clearly do in hospitals and clinics, should be on that first priority list," Birx said. And if you want to know how your area is faring, check out Every State Should Be Locking Down Except These 3, Researchers Warn.
Vaccine education will be critical in terms of achieving herd immunity.
Education is the most important factor in achieving the herd immunity necessary to stem the rising number of new coronavirus cases, said Birx. "We should be working right now… [on] getting out that information that these vaccines are safe, they're highly effective, and we know that they prevent serious disease," she explained. "There's nothing more important than that." And for more on what herd immunity looks like, check out Dr. Fauci Says This Many People Need to Get Vaccinated to Stop COVID.
COVID myths are among the biggest impediments to getting enough people vaccinated.
While getting an adequate number of people vaccinated is the ultimate goal, Birx explained that there are major impediments to doing so—namely the pervasive myths about COVID, the vaccine, and public health initiatives that have been implemented as a means of battling the pandemic.
"I think we need to be much more aggressive about addressing the myths that are out there—that COVID doesn't really exist, or the fatalities are somehow made up, or the hospitalizations are for other diseases, not COVID," explained Birx. "Masks do not hurt you—they help you. We know that they help us, as well as helping others." And for the latest COVID updates delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
We still need to slow down the spread before the vaccine is distributed.
Though the initial rounds of vaccines may be on their way to being distributed, Birx noted that we're currently at a critical point in terms of slowing the spread of COVID until everyone can get inoculated. "We're seeing transmission moving from public spaces into private spaces as people gather unmasked… If we don't change how we gather, we're going to continue to have this surge across the country," Birx explained, noting that the current COVID numbers are independent of the impending Thanksgiving-related COVID surge.
"People really need to understand how common asymptomatic spread is and that the majority of spread is from people who don't know they're infected being with others in close quarters with their mask off," said Birx. And if you're thinking of seeing family or friends, beware that This Is the Only Time Someone With COVID Can't Get You Sick, Doctor Says.