The distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine has been well underway since December 14, 2020. Due to its low supply in the US, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that the vaccine be rolled out in phases to specific groups of the US population first. This rollout will help decrease death and serious disease as much as possible, preserve the functioning of society and reduce the additional burden Covid-19 has on individuals facing underlying health issues. The goal is for everyone to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as large enough quantities are available.

Phase 1(a) – Healthcare workers and residents of long-term healthcare facilities

In the first phase, the vaccine will be made available to healthcare workers and residents of long-term healthcare facilities (LTCF). Healthcare personnel have a high risk of contracting Covid-19 since they are at a high risk for exposure to the virus. As of February 7, the CDC reported that 397,196 healthcare individuals contracted Covid-19 and 1,371 died from it. Due to the critical role they play in caring for others in our communities, their protection remains a national priority.

Healthcare workers include anyone (paid or unpaid) serving in a healthcare setting who has the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials such as body substances, contaminated medical supplies and surfaces or air. Examples of healthcare personnel include, but are not limited to:

  • emergency medical service personnel,
  • nurses and nursing assistants,
  • physicians,
  • technicians,
  • therapists,
  • dentists,
  • dental hygienists and assistants,
  • phlebotomists,
  • pharmacists,
  • students and trainees,
  • contractual staff,
  • dietary and food services staff,
  • environmental services staff,
  • and administrative staff.

Residents of long-term healthcare facilities (LTCF) are most at risk from dying from Covid-19. On November 6, 2020, the CDC reported that LTCF residents accounted for 39% of deaths nationwide.  Therefore, saving as many lives as possible is also a national priority. The LTCF residents include adults who reside in facilities that provide a range of services, including medical and personal care, to individuals who are unable to live independently.

Phase 1(b) – Frontline essential workers and people aged 75+

In the next phase of the vaccination rollout, frontline essential workers and people aged 75 and older are next in line to receive the vaccine. Frontline essential workers include, but are not limited to:

  • fire fighters,
  • police officers,
  • correctional officers,
  • food and agricultural workers,
  • United States Postal Service workers,
  • grocery store workers,
  • public transit workers,
  • and those who work in the educational sector (teachers, support staff, and daycare workers.)

Since people who are aged 75 years and older have a higher risk of contracting the virus, hospitalization, illness, and death from Covid-19, the CDC recommends that they should be vaccinated along with the frontline workers. If they are also residents of a long-term care facility, they should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a.

Phase 1 (c) – People aged 65 -74, sick people aged 16 – 64 and other essential workers

In the third phase of Covid-19 vaccination rollout, people who are 65 -74 years old, 16 – 64 with a serious medical conditions and other essential workers should be next in line to receive the vaccine. These are the next groups of people who are at high risk of hospitalization, illness, and death from Covid-19. If they are also residents of long-term care facilities, they should be offered vaccination in Phase 1a. Individuals with serious underlying medical conditions between the age of 16—64 years also have a serious risk of experiencing life-threatening complications from Covid-19. Last but not least are other essential workers, such as people who work in transportation and logistics, food service, housing construction and finance, information technology, communications, energy, law, media, public safety, and public health.

Vaccination for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding

People who are pregnant and part of a group recommended to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in phases 1a-c may choose to be vaccinated. Scientific research demonstrates that pregnant people who contract Covid-19 have an increased risk of severe illness that could result in ICU admission, mechanical ventilation, and death compared to non-pregnant women of reproductive age. Additionally, the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, is higher as well. Nonetheless, the findings do conclude that even though the risk is higher, the chances for it to happen are low.

Therefore, if a pregnant person has questions or chooses to get vaccinated, they should discuss their concerns with a healthcare provider who can help them make an informed decision. However, please note that there are still no findings available confirming the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine on pregnant women (CDC, dated January 7, 2021).

Although the CDC has given the specific recommendations above for how the vaccine should be rolled to the US society, the federal, state, and local governments are free to decide who will receive the vaccine first and how. You can find out more information on Covid-19 vaccinations in your local area by visiting the CDC’s Health Directories. To view the latest updates on the Coronavirus, please visit our newsroom or sign-up for our newsletter. If you have any employer related questions, please view our article on Implications of Covid-19 vaccine on employers or  contact our HR department.