• Most states are following the CDC vaccine recommendations but some are not
  • Florida and Texas, for instance, are prioritizing the 65-74 age group over essential workers
  • Both categories are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19

The COVID-19 vaccine is already bringing in the much-needed hope as they are being rolled out across the country. But some states are deviating from the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on who should get vaccinated first.

In Phase 1a, according to the CDC recommendation, health care workers and those in long-term care facilities should be given the COVID-19 vaccine. In the next phase, people aged 75 and above, as well as frontline essential workers, including firefighters, public transit staff, agricultural workers, teachers, grocery store employees, and postal workers are given priority.

It isn't until Phase 1c when adults aged 65-74 years, those 16-64 years old but with health conditions and other essential workers are prioritized.

These are just recommendations and two states are already deviating from them by prioritizing the 65-74 age group over the workers who are considered essential but maybe younger.

"We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in an address last week, The Washington Post reported.

Similarly, Texas will prioritize people in the 65-75 age group and those with underlying medical conditions over essential workers in its Phase 1b.

"The focus on people who are age 65 and older or who have comorbidities will protect the most vulnerable populations," Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) chair Imelda Garcia said in a statement from the Texas Department of State Health Services. "This approach ensures that Texans at the most severe risk from COVID-19 can be protected across races and ethnicities and regardless of where they work."

One of the main aims of CDC's recommendations is to "preserve functioning of society," which is possibly why frontline essential workers are included in the earlier vaccination phases.

Frontline workers cannot work from home and typically have jobs wherein social distancing is not possible, putting them at high risk of being exposed to the virus. In these jobs, people of color who are already disproportionately affected by COVID-19 are "overrespresented," The Washington Post noted.

The two states that have deviated from the recommendations, however, are focusing on those who are more vulnerable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people who are 60 years old and above, as well as those with health conditions are most at risk for severe COVID-19, putting them in the "high-risk" group.

Essentially, both groups are threatened by COVID-19 in their own ways.

So far, both states are still in Phase 1a of the vaccination roll-out, but some areas have already started giving vaccinations to people aged 65 and older. In Florida's Lee County, for instance, people started queueing up as early as 19 hours before the clinic opened on Sunday.

Other states have also slightly deviated from the CDC recommendations, Kaiser Family Foundation reported. For instance, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wyoming added law enforcement to Phase 1a, while Massachusetts included people who were incarcerated and those in homeless shelters to their Phase 1a.

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A COVID-19 vaccine is pictured. AFP / Nicolas ASFOURI