Are you next in line for the vaccine?

The answer to the title question is probably going to be “no” for the vast majority of you, but somebody has to do it I suppose. The first of the new vaccines from Moderna are set to be administered today and the media is once again circling all of the potential recipients. But even with both those doses and the ones that continue to roll out from Pfizer making their way across the country, there still won’t be anywhere near enough to go around for all of the people expected to sign up for a shot. So how are we to determine who gets to go first, assuming your initials aren’t AOC? That’s where the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices comes in. That’s the panel that decided the first doses should go to front-line medical workers and nursing home residents. Yesterday they took a vote to determine who should be next in line. The winners (if you consider this to be “winning”) probably won’t come as too much of a surprise. (Associated Press)

A federal advisory panel recommended Sunday that people 75 and older and essential workers like firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers should be next in line for COVID-19 shots, while a second vaccine began rolling out to hospitals as the nation works to get the coronavirus pandemic under control.

The two developments came amid a vaccination program that began only in the last week and has given initial shots to about 556,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and Germany’s BioNTech already is being distributed, and regulators last week gave approval to the one from Moderna Inc. that began shipping Sunday.

With a couple of exceptions, I’m pretty much okay with these selections, though I still have a couple of questions. I do have to wonder if we aren’t rushing things with the people who are 75 years of age and older. They are clearly some of the people at the greatest risk for a bad outcome if they contract COVID because more of them tend to have other underlying conditions. But we’ve now seen multiple instances of people having severe allergic reactions to these vaccines shortly after receiving them. Wouldn’t people in this category also be among the most likely to not survive a sudden onset of anaphylactic shock? Granted, they would probably be in some sort of hospital or medical center when it happened, so that improves their odds considerably, but I’d be nervous about it. Then again, I’m not a doctor so what do I know?

Giving the vaccine to firefighters and police officers should be a fairly obvious choice. They’re forced to be out in the streets mixing it up with untold numbers of random people every day. And the more of them we lose, the less safe we all are. I really can’t think of any group except for the medical caregivers dealing with COVID patients who should come before them.

Grocery store workers? I suppose so, since food delivery will always be listed in the essential worker category. But it’s a little less urgent than first responders and people are supposed to be limiting how often they go to the store and there are occupancy limits and social distancing rules in place for all grocery stores at this point.

The one red flag on the list for me is the inclusion of teachers. In places where the schools are all open for in-person education, sure. We should absolutely give those teachers the vaccine if they want it. But for all of the districts where schools are still shut down there need to be some provisions in place. First, the teachers’ unions in those areas should put out a statement saying that they support the immediate reopening of the schools the moment that the teachers are vaccinated and have immunity. The teachers themselves should also signal a willingness to immediately return to work.

Any teachers or union representatives failing to meet this requirement have no business shoving their way to the front of the line. If you’re not willing to go back to work and do your job, then you’re just another unemployed (though still getting full pay and benefits) person. There’s nothing special about you and you can wait for your vaccine just like everyone else.

So who comes next after these groups are vaccinated? If I had to guess, I’d wager that they’ll start bringing the age groups down a bit, starting with the 60-74-year-olds. In terms of occupations, we should probably get all of the bus drivers, commercial airline pilots and train/metro workers taken care of. As the country opens back up when we’re approaching herd immunity, they will be among the first to be exposed to larger and larger numbers of people each day. And have we taken care of everyone in the military yet? They need to be near the front of the line also.