In Other News #6: Lobbying for who gets the Covid-19 Vaccine

One day there will likely be a Covid-19 vaccine.  But who should get it first?

Science Magazine reports that “a committee that makes vaccine use recommendations to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrestled with the issue in a virtual meeting…the prioritization issue comes down to a tricky balancing act between best helping society versus protecting an individual’s health.”

Source: Science Magazine

Doctors, epidemiologists, and researchers are working to balance a wide array of competing public health interests in deciding who first gets a potential vaccine that will likely be in short supply when first released. Factors like age, industry, living environment, and even race may come into play: “The new coronavirus’ disproportionate toll on the elderly could put them at the front of the line—except they often have the weakest response to vaccines. Conversely, groups such as prisoners, meat packers, soldiers, and grocery store workers are often young and healthy—yet their profession or environment dramatically increases risks of getting infected. And then there is the thorny question of whether to favor specific ethnic groups hard-hit by the virus.”

But even thornier questions have presented themselves.  Just as we had to ask ourselves who we define as “essential workers,” who do we now define as “high risk”?  Are front line medical workers the most at risk, or are they safer because of their professional  grade PPE?  What about teachers with large class sizes?  What about households who live in close quarters compared to those that can more easily socially distance?  What about the homeless?

It’s no wonder some of the brightest public health minds in the country are having trouble deciding how to thread this needle.

Source: The Hill

However, you may or may not be glad to know, that yet another group has entered the forum to help make this decision — American lobbyists.

From The Hill, “fifteen trade groups recently made their pitch to President Trump, citing his declaration that the food and agriculture sector is a critical component of the nation’s infrastructure…The North American Meat Institute, which represents meat processing companies, was among the 15 groups that sent a letter to Trump requesting priority access to a vaccine. Other groups on the letter included the American Frozen Food institute, the National Milk Producers Federation and the United Fresh Produce Association.”

This is a time for Americans to ask themselves some important questions. Based on your read on how the US has dealt with Covid-19 thus far, whose advice do you think will win the day? Scientists or lobbyists? Researchers or revenues? Thus far the nation’s coronavirus procedures have been divided on a state-by-state basis. Do you think vaccine decisions should follow that same approach?

One of America’s lawmaker’s has issued a stark warning. Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, is encouraging the federal government to make a comprehensive plan public now: “The Trump Administration needs to follow the science and address how to prioritize distribution now as part of a larger comprehensive, national vaccine plan—and the cornerstone of that plan has to be public health and protecting vulnerable communities. We need to listen to the public health experts here, not the politicians, big corporations, or their lobbyists.”

No word yet on if anyone is taking this advice.

If you want to weigh in with your elected officials, now is the time to call.

To contact your Senator or Congress Person: Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to your Senator or Representative’s office.

To contact the White House: You can leave a comment at (202) 456-1111.

Amit Thakkar

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