“The more people we can get with gunfire, the more lives we are going to save,” said Dr Reboli. “It gets dangerous when you know something is a major risk factor and then you choose this list.”
However, other states appear to have done just that. New Mexico and Texas have made people with other high-risk medical conditions eligible for the vaccine, but smokers have not. Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and North Carolina include smokers, but not until later stages.
Being on the list of people eligible for the rationed vaccine is one thing. Getting an appointment for a shot is another.
Officials running a county vaccination site in Kearny, New Jersey, said on Friday they received 3,500 applications within 24 hours of the state announcing the expanded eligibility expected to have used up their initial vaccine supply by Monday. They said they hoped to receive more doses by Tuesday.
In Bergen County, one of the first epicenter of the virus in New Jersey, places for the Holy Name Medical Center vaccination clinic were filled hours after they were made available online – even before the pool of eligible people does not develop.
Dr Adam Jarrett, chief medical officer at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey, said it was better to have too many people eligible for vaccination than too few, and he praised the state’s general expansion . In the past month, before eligibility was expanded, the hospital occasionally found itself with extra doses of vaccine thawed late in the day.
No vaccine was wasted, Dr Jarrett said, but it took effort.
“We were literally walking down the halls and calling the hospital staff,” said Dr Jarrett. “This vaccine is gold and we don’t want to waste a single dose.”
Now, he said, the challenge was to get more vaccines from the federal government.
“We have to open it up,” Dr Jarrett said. “When you get vaccinated, you do it for yourself, but you also do it for the whole community.”