Boris Johnson Meets a COCVID Vaccine

Obesity Is a Possible Priority for the COVID Vaccination

Today on the web, a CDC advisory committee – the ACIPwill vote on priority groups for getting the new coronavirus vaccine. Of course, deciding who goes first is a classic setup for conflict. But for now, the grumbles are pretty quiet. The UK published its COVID vaccination priorities last week and severe obesity (BMI ≥ 40) is in priority group number four (of nine).

So far, the CDC has pointed to four priority groups. These are healthcare workers, essential workers, people with high risk medical conditions, and people 65 and older. Obesity fits into that third group.

Everyone Is Special

This priority setting process will be quite interesting to watch because those four priority groups add up to 80 percent of the U.S. population. Of course, healthcare workers are an easy choice. The numbers are relatively small (21 million) and these people are truly on the front line.

But after that, things might be messy. STAT reports that senior leaders in the Trump administration are pushing for adults 65 and older to go first. It also occurs to us that defining essential workers might be interesting. In fairness, that should include low wage retail food workers. But fairness in U.S. health policies is sometimes absent.

This is the problem with setting priorities. If everyone is a priority, have we done the job of setting priorities? At the end of the day, setting priorities means leaving some people to last and that sets up a political problem.

Stirring the Pot

The Daily Mail is our barometer for sensational reporting and did not fail us on this matter. Its headline seems designed to stoke weight bias:

Severely obese people with BMIs over 40 should get a Covid vaccine BEFORE millions of healthy Brits aged 50 to 65, official guidance confirms

Predictably, this yielded a flood of bigoted commentary about COVID vaccination for people with obesity. We see this in comments to the Daily Mail and the Washington Post alike.

Community Immunity?

However, vaccination is a funny thing. Because if too few people get a COVID vaccine, we all suffer and the pandemic will not fade as we all would like. So indeed pointing fingers at people who “don’t deserve” the vaccine is remarkably stupid. If we want to benefit from the vaccine ourselves, then we want everyone to get it. All for one and one for all. That’s the concept.

Click here, here, here, and here for more on prioritizing the vaccine. For more information on the ACIP meeting today at 2:00 pm Eastern time, click here.

Boris Johnson Meets a COCVID Vaccine, photograph © Number 10 / flickr

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December 1, 2020