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Who Will Get the Vaccine and When? 

Who Will Get the Vaccine and When? 

We must recognize that Operation Warp Speed has been a huge success. The vaccine that we thought might take years was made available in nine months. President Trump did a remarkable job in getting that done and we should all be thankful.
Now we are preparing for the distribution. This is the responsibility of the individual states and the governor’s administration. I am already disappointed.
On a conference call last week with NCDHHS Secretary Cohen, we were given the plan for the phased distribution of the vaccine. There are many flaws, in my opinion. Take a look at the plan below.
Phase 1A  
Healthcare workers caring for COVID patients or people working on COVID floors (e.g., janitors)
Long-term care workers and patients
Phase 1B
Group 1: Aged 75+
Group 2: Aged 50+ and
Patient-facing healthcare worker (not necessarily COVID patients)
Additional frontline workers (first responders, corrections officers, food/agricultural workers, manufacturing, grocery workers, education/childcare workers)
Group 3: Everybody in Group 2 under age 50
Phase 2
Group 1: Aged 65+
Group 2: 16-64 with 1+ medical conditions
Group 3: Prisoners (no age restriction) 
Group 4: Other essential workers – government, public health, emergency management (no age restriction)
Phase 3
College students
K-12 students (if vaccine is approved for that age)
Phase 4
Everybody else
A 20-year old college student will be vaccinated before a 63-year old.
A 25-year old prisoner will be vaccinated before a 64-year old.
A 23-year old factory worker will be vaccinated before a 70-year old.
There is no mechanism to stop a healthy 30-something from telling their doctor they work in a grocery store and deserve a vaccine in Phase 1B.
I have a problem with this prioritization system because I think it does not place enough priority on those most at risk of severe illness or death. It makes sense to give the first vaccines to healthcare workers. I have no quarrel with that. But this prioritization scheme gives the vaccine to healthy college students before people in their early 60s. This system gives the vaccine to young, healthy prisoners or factory workers before people in their early 70s. It seems to me that age is not enough of a factor in this system. We know that age is among the top, if not the top, risk factor. The vaccine prioritization system should reflect that. If you’re worried about college students spreading the virus to their parents, then vaccinate their parents. This system is also open to people lying and cutting in line: there’s no possible way for a doctor to know if a 25-year old saying he works in a grocery store is telling the truth. There will be more stories, from here and elsewhere in the country, of people cutting in line because of this complicated priority system.
A fairer and simpler way is just to vaccinate people according to age, with some exceptions for people with chronic diseases. Doing so will increase confidence in the public health system and allow everybody to know his or her place in line. We don’t need to be vaccinating healthy 19 year old college students and prisoners before 64 year olds. Prisoners, and most everybody else, should get the vaccine according to their age.
Other states have done a much better job. From the Texas Department Of State Health Services: “In Texas, Phase 1B of vaccination will focus on people for whom there is strong and consistent evidence that COVID-19 makes them more likely to become very sick or die. Preventing the disease among people who have these risk factors will dramatically reduce the number of Texans who die from the disease and relieve pressure on the healthcare system by reducing hospital and ICU admissions.”
Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order restricting vaccines to only the following populations: long-term care residents and staff; patient-facing health workers; people aged 65+.
By contrast, North Carolina’s prioritization system puts people 65-74 behind food/ag workers, manufacturing workers, education/child care workers, grocery workers, etc. 
Following are some of the questions I am asking.
What is the definition of “those employed in jobs that are critical to society and at a lower risk of exposure?”
So a young person, also at low risk of exposure, but in a job that is “critical” to society would go before an adult up to age 65?
Are public and private school teachers both included in Phase 1B as “essential front-line workers?”
Does this include teachers at schools that remain virtual-only or that do not have a definitive plan to re-open?
If someone in his 20s goes to a clinic during Phase 1B, and claims to work in the food processing business, for example, would his employment be verified or is this the honor system?
 We can do better than this to keep our citizens safe.
Senator Joyce Krawiec represents District 31, which includes Kernersville, in the North Carolina General Assembly.

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