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Kay's Choice: Governor Ivey Must Make a Choice

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

OPINION: Unlike Sophie, Governor Ivey does not have to choose between ...

two children living or dying. But, Governor Ivey is faced with a choice between letting over 400,000 Alabamians between the ages of 65 and 74 be vaccinated next - which could save their lives - or allowing hundreds of thousands of so called "essential workers" go before them. This should not be a difficult choice.

These "essential workers" are not just frontline healthcare workers. This group includes young, healthy non-healthcare workers with low risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

The Alabama vaccine plan lacks clarity when it comes to "essential workers". Governor Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) need to be more open and honest about who they are including as "essential workers". In addition, they should not include "essential workers" and age groups in the same vaccine phases unless they actually plan to vaccinate them at the same time.

According to the CDC, adults in the 65 to 74 age group are 90 times more likely to die than those in the 18 to 29 years old age group. They account for over 20% of all COVID-19 deaths. This age group should be moved into Alabama's Phase 1b with priority given to frontline workers within that age group. Is Governor Ivey really going to allow completely healthy young workers be vaccinated before this age group?

For those between the ages of 50 and 64, deaths from COVID-19 are more than the average annual deaths, of all ages, from the flu. This age group accounts for about 15% of all COVID-19 deaths. Many in this group are also caregivers for their elderly parents. Governor Ivey should also move this age group up to the 1c group with priority given to frontline workers within the age group. Governor Ivey, these people are also "essential".

The Choice Should Not Be Hard

Both Texas and Florida have made decisions to disregard the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices' (ACIP) recommendation and vaccinate those over the age of 65 next. This follows the vaccination of frontline healthcare workers and the elderly in long-term care facilities.

If Governor Ivey chose to move forward next with vaccinating all of those with the highest risk of severe illness or death, then there would be much less need to be concerned about the virus spreading. In addition, the burden on hospitals and frontline healthcare workers would greatly diminish much sooner. And let's be clear, early in the process Governor Ivey had no plans to even vaccinate those over the ages of 75 in the first phases, unless they qualified based on defined illnesses. The state plan did not change until the ACIP panel changed their recommendations in late December. The fact that the ACIP panel did not include those over age 75 early in their initial plan shows their incompetence and lack of compassion. The State of Alabama should stop following all ACIP guidance, and like Texas and Florida, devise their own plan that focuses on saving lives.

What is Governor Ivey waiting on? In August, Harris released a poll that asked "Which of the following groups should receive priority when a COVID-19 vaccine is available?" The top choice was "healthcare workers" followed by "Seniors (55+)". Why? Because it is the right thing to do. It does not take a lot of good walking around sense to 'figure' this out.

It is time for Kay Ivey to be a leader and make the right choice... and do it now.

Update (January 6, 2021): Since this was posted 4 days ago, AFP notes that Oklahoma, Ohio, Delaware, Georgia, and Alaska have joined Texas and Florida in allowing those age 65 and older to be vaccinated earlier in the process. Colorado has made a similar update for those age 70 and older.

Update (January 10, 2021): Numerous states have updated their plans in recent days moving away from the ACIP recommendations. AFP will report on these changes in an upcoming article.

Update: (January 25, 2021) Photo credit link change


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