SALT LAKE CITY — With multiple companies racing to get a COVID-19 vaccine on the market before the end of the year, most of us know health care workers will be first in line to receive it — but who gets it next?
It turns out, state health officials are already working out those details, though it remains unclear who will be next in line for the vaccine.
Part of the uncertainty stems from the need: a number of groups believe they should be next to get the COVID-19 vaccine after frontline health care workers. For example, Utah Education Association President Heidi Matthews believes teachers have a strong case.
“All of the adults who are working to uphold our schools should be among the first to have that option of receiving the vaccine,” she said. “I think what we need to prioritize is the essential work that happens in our community, and what is going to have the most impact for everyone.”
In other words, if teachers get sick, schools will not be able to stay open, which then affects parents’ ability to hold down their own jobs.
Currently, teachers fall into “Phase 2” of the vaccine roll-out plan in Utah, which would likely run from March to June or July. A third phase, which would cover the rest of Utahns, may not start before July.
First responders next?
Police officers exposed to COVID-19 are dying on the job. As of Sept. 2, on-the-job coronavirus infections were responsible for a least 100 officer deaths, which is more than gun violence, car accidents and all other causes combined, according to the Officer Down group.
Brent Jex, president of the Utah Fraternal Order of Police, says first responders may be reluctant to be the next group vaccinated after frontline health care workers because of the nature of their personalities (Type A) and their jobs — putting themselves in harm’s way.
Jex said there have been no COVID-related law enforcement deaths in Utah.
Jex said of all police officers, patrol officers should be the first to be vaccinated because they are first on scene and therefore the most vulnerable.
“I would say that if you were assigned to a patrol division, then you should be higher on the priority list than if you’re — definitely — if you’re an administrator or if you’re in investigations or if you’re not having that frequent contact with the public,” he said.
Older Americans next?
Trevor Zuzula, a registered nurse and the director of nursing with Everest Home Health and Hospice, said the lives of seniors are being impacted the most severely by coronavirus. He said the numbers tell the story.
He said people 65 and older represent 45% of the general population in the United States and, therefore, nearly half of all hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
He added that for patients age 64 and older admitted to hospitals, the mortality rate is almost 80%.
“How is that acceptable by any means?” he said.
Zuzula said there will be side effects from any available coronavirus vaccine because different medications affect different populations of people in different ways.
How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus
COVID-19 coronavirus spreads person to person, similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:
- Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your face.
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others per CDC recommendations.
- Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet).
- If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities).
- Get a flu shot.
Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707
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