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Are States Prioritizing COVID Vaccinations Differently From CDC Guidelines?

By Keith Speights - Jan 6, 2021 at 8:03AM

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Most states are going along with the federal recommendations.

Pfizer's ( PFE 2.32% ) and Moderna's ( MRNA 1.74% ) COVID-19 vaccines are shipping. But there simply aren't enough of the COVID-19 vaccines granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. government to be given to every American yet.

In anticipation of the supply issues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established guidelines for how COVID-19 vaccines should prioritized for administration to different groups of Americans. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Dec. 23, 2020, Healthcare and Cannabis Bureau Chief Corinne Cardina and writer Keith Speights discuss whether or not individual states are adhering to these guidelines.

Corinne Cardina: Of course the CDC, initially, they talked and consulted with experts and they came up with the preferred priority groups for who's going to get the vaccines first.

Ultimately, it's actually up to the states to determine how they are going to distribute the doses and in what order and to who and when. So we're starting to see certain states breaking from that federal guidance, and that's what it was. It was guidance. It wasn't instructions necessarily. For instance, Texas is actually going to put people who are 65 and older, as well as people with certain medical conditions, ahead of essential workers like grocery store, police, firefighters. Massachusetts is going to include incarcerated people and correctional officers in their first round of priorities. That was not in the CDC's first priority here.

Keith, my question for you is, are states taking a different strategy than the CDC with their priority group guidance?

Keith Speights: Some are. Most states are generally going along with the CDC guidelines. A Kaiser Family Foundation report from just last week found that 45 states are broadly following the guidelines for phase 1A. If you remember, the CDC segmented the rollout of vaccines into phases, and phase 1A included healthcare workers and long-term-care residents. So 45 states are broadly following those guidelines for phase 1A. You mentioned a few exceptions, Texas, Massachusetts, and there are some others.

Then some states are actually moving long-term-care residents to phase 1B instead of phase 1A, so you're seeing a little bit of variation. But generally, most states are going along with what the CDC is recommended.

Now, the real question will be as we get into later phases and sub-phases, a lot of the states are still working out, how they're going to roll out vaccines in these later phases. It could be that we could see more departures from the CDC guidelines going forward, but for right now, most states are going along with it. I think we'll probably see, at least from a general perspective, the CDC guidelines adhered to by most states.

Cardina: Yeah. It's interesting though, to see these deviations. I think Florida has said that they are probably going to prioritize older folks ahead of essential workers. You look at the makeup of Florida, they have so many older folks. The governors, they know their states, and so it's interesting.

I'm just curious about the strategy here. There's one tack that says you protect the most vulnerable populations first -- people who are older, people who have conditions. On the other hand, the essential workers, they're the ones who are out in the world, and so vaccinating them first could have more of an impact on the spread and the transmission. I don't really have a question for you. I just wanted you to talk.

Speights: I totally agree with you. I think if it just came down to some pure logic, pure logic would say give the vaccine to those where it's going to be most effective in preventing spread. That would be pure logic.

But this isn't a purely logical question. This is a political question, and in many of these days, there are political and some other just compassionate type things to take into account. I think you're going to see different states do different things, because of the different political considerations.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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