This State Is Vaccinating Smokers Before Essential Workers

The governor's approach to the state's COVID vaccine rollout may come as a surprise.

After the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced sweeping changes to the country's COVID vaccine rollout on Jan. 12, governors have been hopping into action to implement the desired fixes at the state level. States are free to interpret the HHS's suggestions for rollout as they see fit. Most recently, New Jersey opened up vaccinations to residents older than 65 and anyone 16 and up with underlying conditions. This expansion is in line with many other state's vaccination programs, but Gov. Phil Murphy has had to defend his choice to add smokers to the list of people who have a condition that grants them access to priority vaccination. This means New Jersey will be vaccinating smokers before essential workers. Keep reading for more on this state's vaccine rollout, and for more vaccine news, If You Take These OTC Meds, You Have to Stop Before Getting the Vaccine.

New Jersey is expanding vaccination to people over 16 with underlying conditions.

Doctor wearing protective face shield injecting COVID-19 vaccine to colleague
valentinrussanov / iStock

On Jan. 13, Murphy announced the addition of two new categories of residents that will be eligible to receive a COVID vaccine as soon as Jan. 14. The update includes senior citizens and anyone 16 and over "with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus."

The state is targeting the people who have had the most severe reactions to COVID. "Expanding access to vaccine to individuals in these categories is critical as we know they are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 illness and death," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli added in the statement. "Eighty percent of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey have been among those 65 and older and overall 67 percent of deaths had one or more underlying conditions reported." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

There are several underlying conditions that qualify residents for vaccination, including being a smoker.

Mid adult female doctor at home visit giving a vaccine to a senior patient
iStock

According to Murphy's statement, the conditions that entitle you to vaccination in New Jersey during this phase include "cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease], Down Syndrome, heart conditions, obesity and severe obesity, sickle cell disease, smoking, and type 2 diabetes mellitus."

Additionally, those who are pregnant or immunocompromised due to an organ transplant are also eligible for a vaccine now. However, the statement advised people in these positions to adhere to CDC guidance and discuss vaccination with their personal provider before sitting down for the shot. And for more on vaccine complications, Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Warning About COVID Vaccine Side Effects.

Smokers can now get vaccinated in New Jersey before many essential workers.

Healthcare worker injecting COVID vaccine in female patient's arm at medical clinic.
iStock

New Jersey expanded priority vaccination to include first responders such as police officers and firefighters on Jan. 6. However, Murphy skipped over vaccinating other essential workers, including teachers, restaurant workers, and grocery store staff. Now, smokers will be vaccinated ahead of these workers.

During Murphy and Persichilli's press briefing, they defended their decision to include smokers. "Smoking puts you at significant risk for an adverse result from COVID-19, and there are 2 million smokers in New Jersey who fit into these categories," Persichilli said during the Jan. 13 briefing. And for more urgent vaccine information, discover The Only 2 People Who Shouldn't Get the COVID Vaccine, FDA Official Says.

New Jersey has already been vaccinating other high-risk groups.

Senior woman is about to receive Covid-19 vaccine
bluecinema / iStock

The newest groups up for vaccination are joining the previous people in Phase 1A who were already eligible for the shot. New Jersey has been vaccinating healthcare personnel, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, and first responders. Surprisingly, Persichilli said, "No documentation of the medical condition or your age will be required" at the time of the vaccination. And for more on the future of the pandemic, The Moderna CEO Just Made This Scary Prediction About COVID.

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Allie Hogan
Allie Hogan is a Brooklyn based writer currently working on her first novel. Read more
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