Teachers, first responders, other essential workers next in line for vaccine

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Now that healthcare workers have started receiving the first round of COVID-19 vaccines with a second round to come, the question shifts to who will be next in line to receive the vaccine?

The first doses of the two-part vaccination have been given to those in the Phase 1A allocation, which includes very high risk individuals or those working in a healthcare facility.

This included healthcare workers at many different facilities as well as residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. It also included workers such as EMS employees, pathologists as well as other essential health workers that can come in contact with the virus.

With both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines requiring two separate doses, many of those essential workers have received a first dose or been given the option to receive it and will soon get the second dose.

Next in line will be Phase 1B, which includes essential workers at higher risk for work related exposure as well as those identified in at-risk age groups for COVID-19 associated with morbidity and mortality.

This phase will include frontline essential workers, first responders, those 75 years old or older, and those living in congregate settings such as homeless shelters, group homes, prisons or jail.

Frontline essential workers include the education sector such as teachers and support staff members as well as child care workers. This group will also include grocery store workers, public transit workers, Corrections officers, food and agriculture workers, U.S. Postal Service workers and manufacturing workers.

The timeline for the Phase 1B release is still unofficial, but Alabama State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey said he expects it could start by February or March and that he is confident all teachers will be vaccinated by the end of the school year.

Mackey also added that he expects most of the state’s students to be back for in-person school possibly after spring break before the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

So far, there have been 128,175 doses of the vaccine allocated to Alabama and 20,354 doses have been administered with 18,148 doses being the Pfizer vaccine and 2,206 the Moderna vaccine, which the state most recently received. Those numbers are through the week ending in Dec. 27.

Following the Phase 1B release will be Phase 1C.

This phase will include at-risk age groups for those between the ages of 65 and 74, other essential workers not in the 1B phase and those between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions.

Essential workers in this phase include those working in transporation and logistics, waste and wastewater, food services, shelter and housing such as construction, finance such as bank tellers, information technology and communication, energy, legal, media, public safety such as engineers, and public health workers.

Then, Phase 2 will be the next step, featuring the rest of the state not vaccinated in the previous phases.

During a press conference in December, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said it would likely be this summer before the average Alabamian in Phase 2 would be able to get the vaccine.

Currently, the two approved vaccines remain Pfizer and Moderna.

The Pfizer vaccine is authorized for emergency use in persons aged 16 years and older. It is a two-dose vaccine given 21 days apart.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the clinical trial data shows the vaccine is 95-percent effective at preventing the COVID-19 infection starting seven days after the second dose.

Individuals will not be considered fully protected until one to two weeks after they receive the second dose. The clinical trials revealed no major unanticipated adverse events.

According to the ADPH, the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine is authorized for emergency use in individuals aged 18 years and older. This is a two-dose vaccine given 28 days apart. Clinical trial data shows the vaccine is approximately 94-percent effective after two doses with no serious safety concerns were found.

The ADPH has yet to lay out a specific timeline for when each phase will be able to be vaccinated.