2-10-2021 – Vaccine eligibility headaches loom, official says

Posted on: February 10th, 2021 by admin

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February 10, 2021

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By Guy Lucas guylucas@newstopicnews.com

Feb 9, 2021

 

State officials say it probably will be weeks before more groups of people are made eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, but when that time comes it will bring some headaches for those in charge of vaccine clinics, a Caldwell County health executive says.

 

Among the problems is that the state guidelines on the next groups who will become eligible are vague and open to interpretation, Laura Easton, the CEO of Caldwell UNC Health Care, told the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission’s board of directors on Tuesday.

 

The first of those groups is “frontline essential workers,” which the state defines as consisting of several broad categories, and it offers limited examples for each. For instance, one category is “critical manufacturing,” and the guidelines say, “Including for example” the following:

  • Workers manufacturing medical supplies, medical equipment or personal protective equipment.
  • Workers manufacturing products needed for food and agricultural supply chains.

“It’s going to be challenging for us to figure out … and I honestly don’t know how we’re going to do it,” she said.

 

The state guidelines that were issued in December on what constituted essential workers was broader than the most recent guidelines, she said.

 

A group that would become eligible after essential workers is “adults at high risk for exposure and increased risk of severe illness.” The guidelines cite the CDC’s list of conditions that increase the risk of severe illness, which include such common conditions as moderate asthma, high blood pressure, being overweight, pregnancy, and being a smoker.

 

“Most of us are probably going to be in that category,” Easton said.

 

She said she would prefer to find the fastest way to vaccinate the greatest number of people.

 

“It seems to me we should just move people through and spend less time worrying about what category people are in,” she said. “(But) I don’t have that authority.”

 

The groups currently eligible for vaccinations are health care workers, residents and staff of long-term-care facilities, and anyone 65 or older. But the latter, particularly, is a large group, and the amount of vaccine supplied by the federal government has fallen far short of demand for shots, causing health officials to cancel and reschedule many people’s appointments.

 

Although the short supply is frustrating people, Easton said that Caldwell UNC and Caldwell County Health Department workers have been getting vaccinations done as rapidly as the supplies come in.

 

They also have done a better-than-average job compared to the rest of the state in getting Black residents vaccinated, in part by working through local churches, she said.

 

According to the N.C. Department of Human Services, 6.2% of Caldwell County’s Black residents have received at least their first dose of vaccine, compared to 5.7% of Black residents statewide; and 12.4% of Caldwell’s white residents have received at least their first dose, compared to 10.5% statewide.

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