This Group Keeps Getting Bumped Down the Vaccine List

In 24 states, the 'medically vulnerable' keep getting pushed to end of line
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 13, 2021 9:00 AM CST
Getting Lost in Vaccine Shuffle: the 'Medically Vulnerable'
Maura Wozniak poses for a picture on Feb. 23, 2021, in Huntersville, NC. Wozniak, a 42-year-old mother of two, has cystic fibrosis and also has undergone lung transplants. She has been moved into group 4, just ahead of the general public to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Across the US, millions of medically vulnerable people who initially were cited as a top vaccination priority group have been slowly bumped down the list as the CDC modified its guidelines to favor the elderly, regardless of their physical condition, and workers in a wide range of job sectors, per the AP. North Carolina is just one of 24 states that currently places people under 65 with "underlying medical conditions" near the bottom of the pack to receive the vaccine, according to Jen Kates of the Kaiser Family Foundation. A report she wrote last month listed Pennsylvania as the only state making vaccines available to the medically vulnerable during its first phase of distribution. When North Carolina unveiled its initial guidance in October, it placed people with multiple chronic conditions near the top of the list. In response to the CDC's December recommendations to prioritize people 75 and older, however, it dropped those with chronic conditions to Phase 2.

When the guidance changed again to expand eligibility to those 65 and up, medically vulnerable residents learned in January they'd be dropped to Phase 4—to be vaccinated after "frontline essential workers" but before "everyone." The state's top public health official says these residents were moved down the list after health officials received data showing elderly residents are far more likely to die of COVID-19. Responding to the frustrations of such patients, states are now revising their guidelines again. As of Monday, 28 states, including North Carolina, had at least partially opened up vaccine eligibility statewide to those with high-risk medical conditions, Kates says. Four other states are making the vaccine available to medically vulnerable residents living in certain counties. Maura Wozniak, a 42-year-old Charlotte-area resident who has cystic fibrosis she cried in relief after learning she may soon be eligible. "At least there's a certain window now," she says.

(Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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