The US Department of Health Human Services (HHS) has made some broad changes in the COVID19 vaccine rollout across the country. Since new recommendations have been proposed, governors have been stepped into action to apply required fixes at the state level. However, it seems states are free to interpret the guidelines proposed by the HHS for the vaccine rollout. Recently New Jersey has started vaccinating people who are older than 65 years of age and anyone who is 16 years and above with underlying conditions. These changes are in line with the vaccination programs of many other states but Governor Philip Murphy has recently decided to include smokers in the list of people who have some underlying health issues, which makes them eligible for priority vaccination. It means that the state is going to vaccinate smokers before essential workers. Governor Philip Murphy has introduced two new groups of people who will be given the COVID vaccine on priority. The first group includes people who are above 65 years and the second group includes people in the age range of 16 years and above with certain health issues as defined by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which shoots up the risk of viral infection.
New Jersey in the US has been targeting people who have been severely hit by the virus in the vaccination program. Health Commissioner New Jersey Judith Persichilli has said that the government needs to expand the access to vaccines in these groups, as it is evident that people in these groups are at a greater risk of severe complications and death due to the virus. As per the data, around 80 percent of deaths due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus have taken place among people who are 65 years of age and above. Nearly 67 percent of people who have lost their lives due to the disease have been dealing with one or more underlying health issues. Health experts from the state have said that health conditions like cancer, chronic kidney disease, Down syndrome, sickle cell disease, obesity, heart issues, smoking, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and type 2 diabetes will qualify people for vaccination in the ongoing phase in the state. The officials from the state have said that women who are pregnant and people with weaker immune systems as well are eligible to get the vaccine in this phase. However, they have said that such people should follow the CDC guidelines for vaccination and they should consult their health care provider before taking the shot.
New Jersey has included first responders such as firefighters and police officers in the priority list of the vaccination program early this month. However, Governor Philip Murphy has skipped inoculating other essential workers such as teachers, restaurant workers, and grocery store staff. Now, smokers will be getting the vaccine ahead of these essential workers. The top officials of the state have defended their decision to vaccinate smokers before the essential workers saying that smoking puts people at a higher risk of severe complications of COVID19. They have said that there are around 2 million smokers in the state, who are eligible to get the shot in this phase. People from the newest groups who are up for vaccination will join the people from the previous phase 1a, who are already qualified to get the vaccine. The Health commissioner of the state has made a shocking statement that people do not need to bring the documents related to their medical condition and age at the time of vaccination. New Jersey has been vaccinating its health care workers, residents, and staff of long-term care facilities and first responders since the vaccine rollout has started in the US.