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Maryland must give vaccine priority to those with medical ails | READER COMMENTARY

A person holds up a vial of the Moderna vaccine against the COVID-19 disease, at the Diakonie Hospital "DIAKO" vaccination ward in Bremen, Germany, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP)
A person holds up a vial of the Moderna vaccine against the COVID-19 disease, at the Diakonie Hospital "DIAKO" vaccination ward in Bremen, Germany, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa via AP) (Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/AP)

I appreciate Maryland’s expedited phased approach to COVID-19 vaccine distribution including emphasizing front-line health workers and nursing home residents, as well as Phase 1B: soon offering shots to teachers, older Marylanders and those in congregate care facilities (”Maryland expands vaccine rollout, with people 75 and older, teachers eligible next week,” Jan. 14).

Recently, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford urged “all Marylanders who are currently eligible to receive the vaccine to do so. No one out there — especially those in the high-risk categories or front-line and essential workers — should think they don’t need to worry about the virus.”

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Those who do need to worry about the coronavirus, high-risk categories not included here are people of nearly any age with underlying health conditions: diabetes, heart or lung conditions, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. In fact, contrary to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Maryland’s next Phase 1C still does not prioritize residents with underlying medical conditions who are consistently among those most at risk of becoming severely ill or dying of COVID-19.

According to the CDC Evidence Table, Phase 1C should include “Persons aged 16-64 years with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.”

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It remains unclear when the state’s Phase 2, which covers some limited health issues, will roll out. Whichever phase, when more vaccine doses are distributed, Gov. Larry Hogan needs to widen accessibility to people “with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19,” as recently called for by the Department of Health and Human Services. Please also offer physicians discretion to consider patients’ pre-existing conditions, and not adhere strictly to a few categories, as individual risk might prove more complex.

Those at the most risk of losing their lives or suffering, including long-term COVID-19, should at least be among our workers in industries to be vaccinated and prior to the general public. Our economies are essential. Our public health priorities — keeping more Marylanders alive and well — even more so.

Joanne Simpson, Baltimore

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