From the New York Times news section:
The recommendation was a compromise aimed at getting the coronavirus vaccine to the most vulnerable of two high-risk groups.
By Abby Goodnough and Jan Hoffman
Dec. 20, 2020
Striking a compromise between two high-risk population groups, a panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Sunday to recommend that people age 75 and older be next in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the United States, along with about 30 million “frontline essential workers,” such as emergency responders, teachers and grocery store employees.
… The panel of doctors and public health experts had previously indicated it would recommend a much broader group of Americans defined as essential workers — about 90 million people with jobs designated by a division of the Department of Homeland Security as critical to keeping society functioning — as the next priority population, and that older people who live independently should come later.
But in hours of discussion on Sunday, conducted remotely, the committee members concluded that given the limited initial supply of vaccine and the higher Covid-19 death rate among older Americans, it made more sense to allow the oldest among them to go next, along with workers whose jobs put them “at substantially higher risk of exposure” to the virus.
“I feel very strongly we do need to have that balance of saving lives and keeping our infrastructure in place,” said Dr. Helen Talbot, a member of the panel and an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.
Other types of essential workers, such as construction and restaurant workers, would qualify for a third wave of prioritization under the panel’s recommendations. …
Together, the two groups the committee recommended be vaccinated next number about 51 million people. Federal health officials have estimated that there could be enough vaccine supply to inoculate 100 million people before the end of February, including the nation’s 21 million health care workers and three million residents of long-term care facilities. The C.D.C. reported on Sunday that more than 556,000 people had received an initial shot over the last week; both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require a second dose several weeks later.
At a rate of 556k inoculations per week of a double dose vaccine, we should zoom through the first 100 million people in only … uh, 360 weeks. By November 2027, we should be ready to figure out who is next in priority.
Is that going to be sped up?
The director of the C.D.C., Dr. Robert Redfield, will now review the panel’s latest recommendation and decide, likely by Monday, whether to embrace it as the agency’s official guidance to states. After the committee suggested last month that it would recommend that essential workers get vaccinated ahead of older people, Dr. Redfield urged its members in a statement to “demonstrate that we as a nation also prioritize the elderly.”
A working group of the committee suggested that in addition to teachers, firefighters and police, “frontline essential workers” should include school support staff, day care employees, corrections personnel, public transit, grocery store and postal workers, and those in working in food production and manufacturing….
When the committee signaled last month that essential workers should precede adults 65 and older, many members supported that view, expressing alarm that these workers, who are often low-wage people of color, were being hit disproportionately hard by the virus and were additionally disadvantaged because of their limited access to good health care. …
But when word of that proposal emerged, the public reaction was frequently harsh because many people felt that the elderly deserved protection first, as they, too, are dying at disproportionately high rates and overwhelming health care facilities.
In addition, the committee faced a flood of often vicious accusations that it was prioritizing other racial groups over white people.
Vicious, I tell you, vicious. Anybody who questions the federal government valuing Black Lives over all lives is a vicious dog of a racist. They are barely human, if that. They need to be taught the true meaning of Diversity-Inclusion-Equity.
In a strongly worded statement before the panel’s vote on Sunday, its chairman, Dr. Romero, pushed back. “Our attempt has been always to achieve equitable ethical and fair distribution of that resource. We have never targeted a specific ethnic nor racial group for receipt of the vaccine,” he said.
The position the committee ultimately endorsed was intended to mediate between competing and compelling concerns. The latest recommendation now trims back essential workers to a smaller category and narrows the eligible older population by a decade.
The full committee also voted to recommend a third priority group to get the vaccine after people who are older than 75 and those who are “frontline” essential workers: people ages 65 to 74 (roughly 32 million); people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions (more than 110 million); and all other essential workers, including those with jobs in restaurants, construction, law, transportation other than public transit and water treatment.
Dr. Grace M. Lee, a committee member who is a professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, noted that while the C.D.C. currently lists 11 “high-risk” conditions that make people more vulnerable to a life-threatening case of Covid-19, such as severe obesity, sickle cell disease or Type 2 diabetes, the list needs to be constantly updated as clinicians learn about more conditions that can leave patients exposed.
… Some on the committee called for refining priorities further within each large group, if only to help states and local governments make difficult decisions in the coming weeks. For example, one asked, shouldn’t older frontline essential workers go before younger ones?
But older workers tend to be whiter, so that would be racist.
The committee members said that the overarching consideration should be for those who could not do their jobs without social distancing or who did not have ready access to personal protective equipment. Those who can work remotely and otherwise don’t fall into a higher priority group, they said, should wait.
But the group also suggested that the categories would be fluid, and that states could move from one phase to the next if supply increased, if data suggested that most people in a group had gotten vaccinated,
How about asking people if they have had Covid and not giving the vaccine right now to people who say, “Yes”?
or if appointments for the shots in any given jurisdiction began to be less than 80 percent filled.