Will All Seniors Be First in Line for the COVID-19 Vaccine?


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Medicare has announced that it will fully cover the COVID-19 fast-tracked vaccines for all Medicare beneficiaries. They are predicted to arrive next month, but experts are saying that not all Americans 65+ are at the front of the line. 

As case numbers continue to climb in the U.S., the optimism for a vaccine by the end of this year is the only thing people are asking for this holiday season. According to CNBC, the coronavirus case tally is above 11.5 million with more than 250,000 deaths, accounting for about 20 percent of both the 56.3 million global cases and an estimated 1.3 million COVID-19 deaths around the globe. 

Upcoming vaccines

Pfizer and German biotech partner, BioNTech, gained FDA approval for the emergency use of their vaccines. The companies also said their vaccine is 95 percent effective overall up from their earlier 90 percent estimate with at least 94 percent effectiveness for those 65-and-older.

Additionally, Moderna has said that its preliminary data also shows a 94.5 percent effectiveness. “Between the two of them, the U.S. should have enough doses to vaccinate 20 million individuals by the end of the year,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Vaccination phases & senior priority

Public health officials have said the vaccine will be released in phases. But what are these phases and are seniors going to receive their promised priority? 

States are making plans based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The specifics of each state’s preliminary plans for who they will vaccinate first are all different,  although Phase 1 remains the same across the board. The first ones to receive the vaccine will be health-care workers, essential workers, and individuals at high risk.

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The CDC is recommending that a four-phase approach will be most effective in administering the vaccine – starting with phase 1A targeting healthcare workers and first responders, and 1B focusing on individuals with underlying health conditions that put them at significant risk for serious illness, as well as older adults living in congregate or crowded setting (i.e. nursing homes). Recent data proved that of nearly 224,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.S., more than 177,000 were in the 65-and-older cohort.

Seniors who weren’t included in phase 1 would then become first in line for phase 2. The CDC notes that adults age 65 or older account for about 80 percent of reported deaths related to Covid-19. 

Next, young adults and children will be among the groups targeted in phase 3, and then the rest in phase 4. 

Exactly how long each phase would last is uncertain, as part of the timing depends on distribution logistics and vaccine availability.

Where do I get the vaccine?

States are currently working on a number of providers and locations for administering the vaccine. Most of them also recognize that there probably won’t be enough vaccine doses available at first to cover everyone targeted in phase 1. 

There are an estimated 17 million to 20 million healthcare workers, according to the CDC. The estimated population of the 65-plus age group is 53 million. With such a high number of Americans in desperate need of this vaccine, it remains an ongoing dilemma to make sure all Americans are vaccinated. 


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