A healthcare worker wearing scrubs, gloves, and face mask sitting against a wall in a hallway
Healthcare workers have been on the frontlines during this pandemic and will be the first to be vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccine is being shipped to states and vaccine is being administered! This means that there is a new tool to add to the toolbox we’ve been using to prevent the spread of the virus and to eventually see an end to the pandemic.

Knowing that it will take some time for a large enough supply to vaccinate everyone in the United States to become available, the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) created a series of grouping recommendations for who should get the vaccine first. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) then took those recommendations to create the first grouping, or tier, of people to be vaccinated. We will work with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and follow these priority tiers.

Both ACIP and CDC had three goals in mind when creating their recommendations:

  • Decrease death and serious disease as much as possible.
  • Preserve functioning of society.
  • Reduce the extra burden COVID-19 is having on people already facing disparities.

Who is in Tier 1a?

Healthcare Personnel

The first tier of people who will receive COVID-19 vaccine includes healthcare personnel, defined as all paid and unpaid people who serve in healthcare settings and have potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Examples of healthcare personnel include nurses, nursing assistants, doctors, phlebotomists, pharmacists, housekeeping, environmental services, and more.

When you look at the goals above, you see that preserving the functioning of our society is one goal. Our healthcare workers have been on the frontline of this pandemic since the beginning, providing care for those who may be, or are sick with COVID-19. They are faced with high risk of exposure to the virus daily, and without them, there is no one to care for those who are sick with COVID-19. By vaccinating those who care for us if we get sick, protecting them from becoming sick themselves, the functioning of our society is preserved.

Resident of Long-Term Care Facilities

The other people included in tier 1a are residents of long term care facilities. These residents are defined as adults who live in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to people who are unable to live independently. Some examples of long-term care facilities are nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

People in long-term care facilities live communally and are typically older adults, many of whom have underlying health conditions. This puts them at increased risk of both getting COVID-19 and of becoming severely ill with it. Additionally, risk of severe illness with COVID increases with age. By November 6, 2020, long-term care residents and staff accounted for 39% of deaths nationwide. Providing vaccine to people in long-term care facilities early is critical in protecting this disproportionately affected population.

Who is in Tier 1b and beyond?

The short answer is, we don’t know just yet. Visit our webpage for the latest on Tier 1b. It will take some time to vaccinate the people in tier 1a, and as more vaccine is produced in the weeks and months to come, it is likely that tier 1b will include other essential workers like HVAC workers, water and sewage employees, agriculture workers, grocery store workers, childcare and school staff, and more. When even more vaccine supply becomes available, the list will likely expand to include groups of people at higher risk for getting COVID-19 and the general public. It’s very likely that enough vaccine for this final grouping will not be available until spring or later.

How will you know when you can get a COVID-19 vaccine?

We are working with our local healthcare and community partners to plan for equitable, ethical, and transparent distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. We will work with our partners in specific sectors, such as schools, as vaccine becomes available to them.

As with most things concerning this pandemic, information changes frequently and sometimes rapidly. We strive to keep you updated on the latest information as we learn it, and that will continue as things progress with the vaccination process. The same goes for information about COVID-19 vaccines. As we learn more about who will be in tiers, when more vaccine is available in our area, or when new tiers will be vaccinated, we will communicate that to you through news releases, blog posts, and on our social media channels.

What should you do before the vaccine is available to you?

COVID-19 vaccines, when available, will be given in stages to the public. During this time, everyone needs to continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by avoiding close contact, crowds, and confined spaces with little ventilation. The vaccine will not be a silver bullet that eliminates COVID-19 from our lives completely.Once the vaccine is available broadly, people will still need to take all the necessary precautions to prevent getting or spreading COVID-19, like staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands often. The combination of a vaccine and prevention measures will help us in our eventual return to normal.

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.