While medical workers and residents and staffers of long term care facilities are being prioritized for vaccines in virtually every state, local leaders are split on who gets the vaccine next.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say under the second tier of vaccinations grocery store employees, transit workers, and other frontline staffers should receive the shot at the same time as those who are 75 and older.
But in Florida, Texas, and Ohio shots are being offered to the elderly first and frontline workers are asked to wait.
‘We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population,’ Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday, allowing people 65 years and older to jump ahead of essential workers.
In Lee County, Florida on Sunday senior citizens waited outside all night in lawn chairs for the chance to get their first shot Monday morning, but locals say the system is ‘out of control’ and unorganized.
The CDC recommendations about the order of vaccine rollouts have sparked fierce debates as it initially prioritized vaccinating essential workers, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic, ahead of the elderly until it was changed last week.
Florida: The sunshine state is one of the Republican-led states prioritizing vaccinating the elderly ahead of frontline workers. Tom, 69, and Judy Barrett, 67, from Marco Island wait in line in the early morning hours of Wednesday at Lakes Park Regional Library in Fort Myers for the vaccine. They had been waiting in line since 8.30pm on Tuesday and by 6am Wednesday the line stretched for blocks
Florida: A view of seniors waiting in line for the vaccine at the Lakes Regional Library in Fort Myers on Wednesday morning
Ohio: Crown Pointe Care Center resident Rebecca Meeker, left, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Kate Latta, PharmD on December 18 in Columbus Ohio. She was the first long-term care patient in Ohio to receive a vaccine
Texas: Cardiology Specialist Dr. Farley Neasman receives an injection of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Valley Baptist Medical Center on Friday December 18
In Florida websites for vaccine appointments have been crashing and facilities have filled up so fast, they pose a risk of infection spread.
In Lee County senior citizens started to line up Sunday night for vaccines on Monday that were doled out on a first-come, first-serve basis. The line was so long the site hit capacity hours before the shots were even given out.
‘This rollout has been out of control in terms of any kind of consistency,’ Wayne Frongello, 69, said to USA Today after he tried to make an appointment for himself and his 95-year-old dad to get the vaccine.
At Mount Sinai Medical Center, which began offering the vaccine to seniors last week, locals struggled to get through to the appointment desk and got conflicting responses, some saying the vaccine was only available to medical center patients.
In Seminole County the Health Department administered shots to people 65 and older at a mall starting Monday but the immunization appointment system crashed repeatedly then filled up through January 9.
On Monday Orange County announced seniors will get vaccinated on Tuesday at the county’s convention center, but County Health Office Dr. Raul Pino warned it wouldn’t be an easy process.
‘Should you expect mistakes? Yes! We’re going to have issues. We’ll work on those issues as they come,’ he said.
Currently medical care workers, long-term care facility residents and staff and those 65 years old and older can get the vaccine in Florida. The state has recorded more than 1.2million cases of the virus and 21,409 resident deaths since the start of the pandemic.
A view of the long lines of senior citizens waiting in line for the COVID-19 vaccine in the early hours of Wednesday morning at Lakes Park Regional Library in Fort Myers
The line for the vaccine stretched for blocks by Wednesday morning, with many senior citizens waiting for hours in lawn chairs and face masks for the chance to be inoculated at Lakes Regional Library in Fort Myers
Friends Terri Kado, 66, right and Patty Tubbs, 68, from Fort Myers Beach wait in line early Wednesday at Lakes Park Regional Library in Florida for the vaccine
In Texas frontline workers, those working and living in long term facilities and people older than 65 or older than 16 with underlying medical conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine. Gov. Greg Abbott said the elderly are eligible for the vaccine because they’re the most vulnerable
Under Ohio’s plan, Ohioans aged 65 and over can get the vaccine after Phase 1a is complete
In Texas Imelda Garcia, a top infectious-diseases official, said that focusing on adults over aged 65 and older and people with chronic conditions and doing so ‘will protect the must vulnerable populations.’
Texas has recorded more than 1.5million COVID-19 cases and more than 26,000 fatalities since the start of the virus.
In Texas frontline workers, those working and living in long term facilities and people older than 65 or older than 16 with underlying medical conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine.
Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is employing a similar approach and including school staffers in the early phase to get the students back to in-person learning.
‘This is the most at-risk group,’ DeWine said on the goal to inoculate the elderly first, noting 87 percent of deaths due to COVID-19 in Ohio fall in this age group.
In Ohio, the elderly will start to get their shots when all healthcare workers and long-term care facilities are inoculated.
CDC guidelines say under Phase 1a all frontline medical workers and those in long-term care facilities and nursing homes should be inoculated first. Then under Phase 1b other frontline workers and the elderly aged 75 and older should be vaccinated
The CDC says under Phase 1c then those aged 65 to 74 should be vaccinated as well as those 16 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions
In Florida websites for vaccine appointments have crashed and facilities have filled up so fast that they pose a risk for the potential spread of COVID-19. Seniors pictured in line with lawn chairs waiting for the vaccine at Lakes REgional Library on Wednesday in Fort Myers
Long lines: A long line of cars is seen as people arrive to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on the first day that Orange County residents 65 and older are able to be vaccinated at a drive through site at the Orange County Convention Center Tuesday
Seniors and first responders wait in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at the Lakes Regional Library Thursday
The CDC’s panel of federal advisers met before Christmas and changed recommendations to prioritize those aged over 75 in the second tier of vaccinations, after preliminary guidelines suggested all non-healthcare essential workers, totaling about 85 million people, should be prioritized.
That initial recommendation sparked outrage because it meant the elderly would have to wait longer.
The advisory panel explained it initially recommended vaccinating essential workers first because racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately represented in many essential industries. But some argued that people would die if age wasn’t considered ahead of racial equity.
Now according to the CDC’s website under phase 1b frontline essential workers like cops, fire fighters, agricultural workers, grocery store workers, and public transit workers will be prioritized alongside those 75 years old and older.
The Trump administration has had a decentralized approach to handling the pandemic, insisting states decide how to distribute the vaccines themselves.
Members of Biden’s coronavirus advisory board have suggested the federal government should play a more active role.
Nationwide 80.7 percent of COVID-19 deaths have come from people 65 and older, as per the CDC.
At the same time those in frontline jobs who can’t work from home or keep a safe distance from others are at the highest risk of work-related exposure.
People of color have also been the hardest hit by the virus as they dominate many essential jobs.
However, not all locals are on board with these states prioritizing the elderly over frontline worers.
The Florida Education Association sued officials in the summer for their reopening plan and asked that teachers gain vaccine priority after medical workers and nursing home residents.
The Texas American Federation of Teachers made a similar request.
The Trump administration has said that all Americans who want a vaccine can get it by June.
The government’s top infections expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said 80 to 85 percent of Americans need to have the vaccine to reach herd immunity.
However, at the current inoculation rate, that will take much longer to achieve than just seven months.
As of Monday the CDC reported that 2.1million doses of the vaccines have been administered in two weeks and we’d need to administer a total of 528million doses as both the Pfizer and Modern vaccines require two doses, to reach herd immunity.
At the current rate, it would take the US 10 years to reach that level of inoculation, as per the Washington Post.
Nationwide, more than 19million cases of the virus have been reported and more than 338,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.