Prioritizing who gets vaccinated for COVID-19 can save lives

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Waiting for your turn can be frustrating, especially when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations.

But in a new study from the University of California, Davis, researchers found prioritizing who receives the limited supply of vaccines available saves lives and reduces the spread of infection.

While there is mostly universal agreement that older people should be prioritized, debates are currently underway about prioritizing a variety of other groups. Still, others argue against targeting at all.

In the study, the researchers modeled COVID-19 transmission rates and the optimal allocation of an initially limited vaccine supply in the U.S. under a variety of scenarios.

They found that deaths, years of life lost and infections were between 17 to 44 percent lower when vaccinations targeted vulnerable populations—particularly seniors and essential workers—rather than an alternative approach where everyone is equally likely to be vaccinated.

They also found that in regions where there was a faster increase in infections, and where there are less masking and social distancing occurring, targeting was even more important in avoiding those outcomes.

Building on the standard approach in modeling analyses to account for age groups, the study is the first to include front-line essential workers as their own category.

In doing so, the researchers identified that such workers should be a vaccination priority along with or shortly after seniors.

Policies that target based on both age and essential worker status substantially outperformed those that consider age only.

Prioritizing essential workers versus seniors depends on the conditions.

For instance, when there is a good supply of effective vaccines and the outbreak is relatively under control, targeting essential workers first to help reduce overall spread can be ideal.

But if vaccine supply is limited and cases and deaths are surging, targeting seniors and the most vulnerable directly may be the better strategy.

The authors say that while the scientific community and public have learned a lot about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, there are still many uncertainties to address.

If you care about the COVID-19 vaccine, please read studies about single Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine 90% effective after 21 days and findings of how to make COVID vaccines more effective: give people vitamin and mineral supplements.

For more information about COVDI-19 prevention, please see recent studies about new COVID vaccines may offer broad protection from coronaviruses and results showing that what heart and stroke patients should know about COVID-19 vaccines.

The study is published in PNAS. One author of the study is Michael Springborn.

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