Vaccine Priorities

“Even the most privileged of humans in the Western world will join a tragically disfavored caste if they live long enough. They will belong to the last caste of the human cycle, that of old age, people who are among the most demeaned of all citizens in the Western world, where youth is worshipped to forestall thoughts of death.”

Those words, from the beautifully written book “Caste” by Isabel Wilkinson, are pertinent to the eagerly awaited recommendations the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is making to the CDC about the priorities for receiving a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The ACIP has already recommended that 21 million health care workers and 4 million residents of long-term care facilities should receive the first doses.

Who will be next in line? Essential workers such as first responders, teachers, transportation workers or food suppliers; people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness because of underlying medical conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease or diabetes; or the elderly? According to the CDC web site, the risk of death from COVID-19, compared to people 18-29 years old, is 90 times higher for people 65-74 years old, 220 times higher for those 75-84 years old, and 630 times higher for those 85+ years old. The ACIP apparently is going to recommend that essential workers should be the second group to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, followed by adults with high-risk conditions and the elderly, tragically disfavored indeed.

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