The Healthcare system, governments and hospitals are obliged to provide care services for all people. However, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been overstretch and the patient management system is overwhelmed in the distribution of the medical capital to ensure accessibility of services for everybody. Due to the limited assets, setting priorities and rationing of the medical equipment means making hard decisions. The world has suffered in the COVID-19 epidemic period and everyone is waiting for a break which is the COVID-19 vaccine (Mills & Salisbury, 2021). The elderly have been given priority for the vaccination after the health stakeholders agreed that they are the most vulnerable. However, it is not clearly stated the next priority group after the elderly. The paper outlines the priority list and the rationale behind each group in COVID-19 vaccine.
The primary priorities of COVID-19 vaccination include prevention of mortality and reducing infections among the medics and social care staff. The secondary consideration is the vaccination of individuals at the increased risk of hospitalization such as those with other underlying health conditions (Hezam et al., 2021). After vaccinating all the populations at risk the vaccine should then be availed to the general public.
The priority for the vaccination is older people at nursing facilities and homes. The current evidence has termed age as one of the greatest risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 death rates increase with age, therefore, the elderly should be given priority to reduce the COVID-19 related deaths. Mathematical modeling states that vaccination of the older people first is the optimal strategy for reducing COVID-19 related deaths. The assumption is that the vaccine is safe for aged (Russell & Greenwood, 2020). Additionally, the implementation of age-based programs is easier and consequently achieves higher vaccine uptake (Hezam et al., 2021). Therefore, the elderly in care homes are the highest priority for taking up the vaccine.
Health and Social Care Workers
Health and social care workers should be the next priority after the elderly. Frontline health workers such as doctors, nurses, nutritionist, physiotherapist, pharmacist among other have a high risk of contracting COVID-19. They can transmit the pandemic to susceptible and vulnerable individuals in healthcare and social setting. Protecting the health and social care workers protects the all the individuals in the hospitals and the society.
Reduction in the transmission of the pandemic due to vaccination adds to the benefits making this group. The vaccination includes individuals working in hospice care and those working directly with the COVID-19 patients in general wards and isolation centers. There is evidence of a high transmission rate among healthcare, social and support staff working in hospital settings (LeBel, 2021). Those at a higher risk of acquiring the infection, risk of developing serious complications, or transmitting the infection to multiple people are considered a high priority.
Individuals with Underlying Conditions
The next priority in line for vaccine are individuals with underlying conditions. These are persons with any disease or condition that lowers or suppresses their immune systems. These include people with HIV, diabetes, asthma, pulmonary tuberculosis, on long-term steroid therapy among other health issues. Clinically extreme individuals over 70 years should be vaccinated with the elderly (Persad et al., 2020). Individuals with other medical issues are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing major complications because of the weak immune systems.
Therefore, this group should be considered as the third priority to reduce COVID-19-associated deaths. However pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant within three months of the first dose should not take the vaccine. There is not enough evidence on the safety of the vaccine for pregnant women. For the children, only those with underlying conditions such as neural disabilities should be vaccinated (Mills & Salisbury, 2021). Healthy children should be considered in the second phase of the vaccination program.
The front-line health care workers are excluded from occupational vaccination, but include the first respondents such as the police, truck drivers crossing borders, prisoners, teachers, workers, cashiers, and professional athletes. These are the groups that should be given the fourth priority. There is some evidence on the risk of exposure by occupation (Persad et al., 2020). Most of the police come into contact with the suspected cases and this increases their chance of infection. Also, the essential workers such as truck drivers that cross different regions and countries can contract the virus in their line of duty.
Teachers, cashiers, and professional athletes interact with many people in their work and this increases their chances of contracting the disease, which necessitates vaccination. Due to little evidence available on occupational transmission, this group of people should be considered a priority in the next phase of treatment (Russell & Greenwood, 2020). All the other categories, including healthy individuals, should be considered in the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination program.
COVID-19 vaccination should aim at reducing the mortality rates and reducing the chances of transmission. Prioritizing the groups in the above manner ensures the achievement of the vaccination goals. Wide vaccination will provide an understanding of whether the vaccine can prevent onward transmission of the virus. Also, as trials on pregnant women and children are completed, there will be a better understanding of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in this group of persons.
Hezam, I. M., Nayeem, M. K., Foul, A., & Alrasheedi, A. F. (2021). COVID-19 vaccine: A neutrosophic MCDM approach for determining the priority groups. Results in Physics, 20, 103-654.
LeBel, J. (2021). Should all seniors get the COVID-19 vaccine before essential workers?. 980 CFPL.
Mills, M., & Salisbury, D. (2021). The challenges of distributing COVID-19 vaccinations. Eclinicalmedicine, 31, 100-674.
Persad, G., Peek, M. E., & Emanuel, E. J. (2020). Fairly prioritizing groups for access to COVID-19 vaccines. Jama, 324(16), 1601-1602.
Russell, F., & Greenwood, B. (2020). Who should be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination?. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 1-5.