Once healthcare workers and long-term care facility members are vaccinated, who's next? There are lots of possible arguments for vaccinating different groups and getting people back to work. Dr. Bruce Gellin of the Sabin Vaccine Institute spoke with Olivia Zitkus and Corinne Cardina of the Fool.com Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau in a Fool Live episode on Dec. 18 about Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) vaccine distribution and who's in line behind essential workers.
Olivia Zitkus: The New York Times interactive article that you mentioned a few minutes ago, I was surprised to see, well maybe not all that surprised, the number of people in front of me in line for a vaccine based on my age, my health profile, all those things, that was published a few weeks ago. In the District of Columbia, I am behind 76,000 other people in line to get a vaccine and behind 23 million people personally across the United States to get a coronavirus vaccine. I think Corinne took the test, too.
Dr. Bruce Gellin: I thought you'd be further back.
Corinne Cardina: I am. Olivia has her health issues complicated. I'm behind 278,000 others. So that's probably a little bit more typical of someone in our age group. Have you taken the test?
Gellin: I agree. I'm staying a little bit in front of you, but not too far. But it's just making thing. You probably saw that on CNN a couple of weeks ago that Sanjay put that out there for Anderson Cooper and say, "Here are your numbers." He's looked up and he was behind I think 268 million people, and he goes, "How many people are there in the United States? I didn't know there were that many. " I think it's a helpful sense of all that. Just to get into that a little bit, because there's been a lot of discussion before the vaccine came and now that it's here, who gets to be at the front of the line. As we've seen now it's healthcare workers, people in long-term care facilities, and those who care in long-term care facilities. That's around 26 million people. The next couple of categories are essential workers, so any guesses on how many essential workers there are in the United States, including the two of you?
Cardina: We're not essential workers. 100 million?
Gellin: Don't tell your bosses that.
Zitkus: We won't.
Gellin: I mean, the number of essential workers, and I think it's an important thing and everyone can make a case for why they're essential, whether you're a food handler, you're in transportation, a teacher, information technology, a Motley Fool podcaster. It's all out there, but it's 87 million people. When you watch this, I think that's what we're going to see next, is really attention over who should get to go next in line. Because frankly, every one of the people who are essential can make an argument for why they are essential, or at least most can. Until the supplies are large enough, there'll be some jockeying for who gets to go next. But beyond that are more of the traditional recommendations for vaccines about people who are at risk for severe disease and underlying conditions. Adults with high-risk medical conditions, 100 million in United States. Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, kidney, cancer, smoking, other things, 100 million people. Then adults after that, adults over 65 are 63 million, and then there's the rest of you. So that's sort of how it stages out. It's interesting to watch other countries do this in different ways. The UK is focusing on the elderly first, and we're going to see how this plays out in different countries. I don't think that there will be differences among the states, although the governors apparently have some flexibility to be able to make some of those adjustments. We'll start to see that soon when more vaccine's available, and we get into these populations beyond these well-defined healthcare personnel and long-term care.
Cardina: Absolutely. That number that I read off earlier, just to be clear, that is my line in DC. So based on my risk profile, I am in line behind 144 million people across the US. Olivia, she is number 23,000,001 in the US, so she is just a little bit ahead of me, but I didn't want to confuse anyone with those more localized numbers.