Guidelines for who gets vaccine first needed now
Though there is some dispute over how soon a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the general public, it appears a few million doses may be ready before the end of this year. There is general agreement they should go to the most vulnerable among us.
That is older people with pre-existing medical conditions. We know that. But if there is any agreement on vaccine rationing — and what will happen will be just that — it ends there.
Clearly, specific guidelines for distribution will have to be developed. They ought to be in the form of guidelines at the federal level, with concrete rules left to the states. Leaders in state capitals are far more qualified to understand the needs of their people.
That sad, it is obvious nursing home residents should be at the top of the priority list. Roughly 40% of the deaths from COVID-19 have been of people living in long-term care facilities. In some states, the percentage is much higher.
And, while older people should be the priority, nursing home personnel should be given priority. Even though many of them may be at low risk personally, they are the carriers who take the virus into long-term care facilities. Keeping their virus out of their systems is vital.
Other health care professionals, ranging from ambulance staffers to doctors, nurses and support personnel at hospitals, should get the vaccine, too.
Rest assured that there will be enormous controversy over vaccine distribution, especially if steps such as protecting younger people such as nursing home employees are taken. Availability of any vaccine is weeks, perhaps months, away. Getting distribution plans in place as soon as possible — so they can be explained, debated and perhaps refined — is vital.
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