OPINION: COVID-19 vaccinations should be reserved for most susceptible 

As COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of millions of Americans, tough choices have to be made about a possible vaccine and who will receive it once it’s safe to distribute. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners announced an $18.1 billion plan June 26 to buy 2 billion doses of vaccines to administer to the most vulnerable populations throughout 2021. 

While at-risk groups like immunocompromised individuals and older citizens should see the vaccine by next year, WHO’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at an Oct. 14 Q&A panel hosted by the United Nations that “a healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine.”

But with a limited quantity to distribute, it’s only fair to help those that need it most. It makes sense to protect the most vulnerable from the virus first and then help those who are less at risk.

The Guardian’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker shows 170 vaccines in development with 11 vaccines in Phase III of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine trial process. The FDA regulates the safety for vaccines in the U.S., and during Phase III the vaccine is given to thousands of people to test its safety and uncover potential side effects.

With these vaccines in development and the limited quantity available to the world, the CDC provided context as to who is the most threatened by COVID-19.

The CDC stated in a coronavirus infographic that as people age, they are more vulnerable to COVID-19. It showed that eight out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths are adults 65 and older. This group, along with those in the medical field, need to receive the vaccine first regardless of the larger number of young adults.

This is especially crucial to Florida as individuals over 65 account for 17.4% of the population, according to the 2010 Florida Census. That’s over 3.25 million in crucial need of the vaccine. This doesn’t account for the frontline health care workers. The difficulty to determine who comes first was mentioned in a Tampa town hall Oct. 15.

Associate USF professor and expert on immunology and vaccine development Michael Teng mentioned the government’s dilemma of having to pick and choose who gets vaccinated.

“For me, it’s easy. We just do the studies and release them,” he said. “It’s the politicians doing life and death.”

Yet others hold a different perspective on who should receive the vaccine first.

The faculty at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California believe that vaccines should be given to “superspreaders.” The faculty’s idea is if they can’t spread it then COVID-19 wouldn’t pass around as much, leaving the most vulnerable safer than if the superspreaders weren’t vaccinated.

They cite California’s Department of Public Health COVID-19 case tracker that showed ages 18-34 account for 35% of cases in California. 

While this claim is valid, it doesn’t account for spreaders in the older age brackets and how they can pass it throughout their own community. While superspreaders can pass it among others, if an older citizen were to get the virus their lives would be in greater immediate danger than these superspreaders. We need to make them a top priority.

It’s hard to hear that COVID-19 will continue to affect our lives throughout the next year. More tough decisions have to be made as time goes on, but one thing is sure, the most susceptible should be helped first so they don’t continue to live in fear for their life.