The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that the next stage of the vaccine rollout prioritize people over the age of 74, as well as 30 million frontline essential workers in America, including grocery workers, food processing workers, first responders, and teachers.
The move was recommended Sunday by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of experts. States ultimately make the final call on vaccine prioritization, but the CDC’s recommendations play a major role in that process.
Beyond nursing home residents and healthcare workers, frontline workers and the elderly are some of the most coronavirus-vulnerable populations in the country. Thousands of frontline workers have died due to COVID-19 and people over the age of 75 account for more than 80,000 of COVID-related deaths in the United States, according to the CDC, or roughly one in four deaths.
The deliberations weighed both the public health and economic impacts of the pandemic. “I feel very strongly we do need to have that balance of saving lives and keeping our infrastructure in place,” panel member Dr. Helen Talbot of Vanderbilt University said during the hearing.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) international president Marc Perrone, whose union represents some 1.3 million food and retail workers, released a statement “applaud[ing] the CDC's advisory committee for prioritizing these brave men and women for access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Protecting our country’s food workers is essential to keeping our communities safe and stopping future outbreaks in these high-exposure workplaces.”
The ACIP recommended earlier this month that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities should get the vaccines first. More than 100,000 Americans living and working in nursing homes have died of COVID. Beyond those currently recommended to receive the vaccine, the committee has suggested those next in line will include the 57 million non-frontline essential workers including those in food service, logistics construction, the legal profession, and the media, as well as those over the age of 16 who have medical conditions that put them at a significantly higher risk to develop severe complications from COVID-19.
Pfizer’ and BioNTech’s vaccine began being rolled out across the country last week, while the one produced by Moderna received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration Friday. Moderna began shipping its vaccine this weekend.
More than 317,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic, and more than 113,000 people are currently hospitalized. An article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last week found that COVID-19 has been the third-leading cause of death of Americans over the age of 45 this year, behind only heart disease and cancer.