As We Prepare for the Vaccine Rollout, We Must Remain Vigilant in the Fight Against COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices finalized guidelines for states on Tuesday, saying that health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff should be among the first in the country to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This is a laudable decision and it is imperative that our hard-working health care heroes and residents in long-term care facilities (often among the most vulnerable in our population to a severe case of COVID-19) are protected. As we approach the rollout of the vaccine it is important for us to remember that other at-risk groups will soon be given the chance to vaccinate, and that we must all remain vigilant against the virus in the meantime.
Unfortunately, nursing homes in New Jersey were amongst the hardest hit by COVID-19 during the initial surge in March and April. With 4,176 nursing home deaths, New Jersey has the fifth highest total in the country. Ensuring the safety of residents in nursing homes and all long-term care facilities is one of my highest priorities and I am glad to see this population will be one of the first to receive vaccinations. Similarly, it is crucial that we vaccinate the staff of long-term care facilities so that they can comfortably and confidently interact with and care for residents without the fear that they could be spreading the virus.
Throughout the pandemic, health care workers have become a shining example of our country’s best and brightest, working long-hours and taking on exceptional risk to care for those in need. Since the start of the pandemic, over 83,000 health care workers have contracted COVID-19 and sadly over 600 have passed away. Even with this staggering risk, health care workers have pushed on, caring for those struggling with COVID-19 and other ailments. These workers need to be protected, as hospitals across the country begin to fill up with a new surge of COVID-19 cases, the doctors, nurses, and other professionals who treat them need to be safe in doing so. Additionally, health care workers will be among those administering the vaccine to the general public, in order to do this in a timely and effective manner it is essential this population is properly vaccinated themselves.
The current vaccine recommendations from the CDC are only part ‘1A’ of a larger scale program. In the coming weeks and months, other at-risk groups are likely to receive the vaccine as well; including those over 65 and those with pre-existing or high-risk conditions, and eventually the general public. As we work towards that point, we must be conscious of the current rise of cases and continue to act with vigilance and common-sense to deter the virus. Wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining a 6-foot distance from others are still the most effective tools we have at combatting the virus. With the holiday season upon us many people will be straying from this guidance, but we need to remain firm in our commitment to keep our communities, loved ones, and ourselves safe. When we all take these steps together, we can have great success in curbing and stopping the spread of this virus. Acting together, we are stronger, and together, we can get through this.
 Data.cms.gov. 2020. COVID-19 Nursing Home Data | Data.CMS.Gov. [online] Available at: <https://data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg/> [Accessed 2 December 2020].
 “Update: Characteristics of Health Care Personnel with COVID-19 - United States, February 12–July 16, 2020,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 24, 2020), https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6938a3.htm.