People with underlying conditions are begging officials to add their condition to the vaccine priority list.
By Jonathan Wolfe and Amelia Nierenberg
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Fighting for a place in line
Months into the vaccine rollout, many Americans with underlying medical conditions are desperate to know: When can I get vaccinated?
The answer, it turns out, depends almost entirely on where you live.
At least 37 states are inoculating people with certain medical conditions that may increase their risk of severe Covid-19, but the details can vary from state to state and even county to county, according to a Times survey. This hodgepodge of rules has set off a free-for-all among vulnerable individuals who are pleading with health and political officials to add their condition to the vaccine priority list.
The problem, medical ethicists say, is that because the coronavirus is new, we don’t yet have a lot of data on which medical conditions make people most vulnerable.
Some studies have shown that people with certain conditions are more likely to be hospitalized or fall severely ill with Covid-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established a list of 12 conditions that elevate a person’s risk, based on substantial evidence — including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, smoking and Down syndrome.
But medical ethicists say the list is misleading because it suggests that the risks for all medical conditions have been evaluated and ranked. Is a 50-year-old with Type 1 diabetes at higher risk than a 25-year-old with sickle cell disease or a 35-year-old with intellectual disabilities? At this moment, it’s hard to know.
In the absence of extensive data, and because vaccine rules are set by governors, people are resorting to social media, letters and public pleas to have their health conditions bumped up on the vaccine priority list. State government officials say their decisions often come down to some combination of evidence, logistics and politics.
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