As vaccine eligibility expands, experts urge everyone over 65 to get inoculated

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Eligibility to access the COVID vaccine continues to expand. On Thursday, Philadelphia officials announced that the city will partially move into Phase 1C of its coronavirus vaccine rollout.

Beginning Monday, April 5, four specific groups on the priority list will be prioritized before the other groups in Phase 1C. The Philadelphia Health Department has asked vaccine providers, including pharmacies, to allow these prioritized groups to set appointments.

These first four groups include:
- Sanitation workers
- Maintenance and janitorial staff
- Utility workers
- Postal and package delivery workers

According to officials, other groups prioritized in Phase 1C, including those in higher education, public-facing finance roles, transportation (including airport and train workers, taxi and rideshare workers), construction, telecommunications and IT, members of the press, the legal industry, and public health workers will be made eligible later in April.

Philadelphia health officials continue to strongly encourage everyone over the age of 65 to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

This announcement comes one day after Pennsylvania announced an accelerated timeline that allows for all adults to be eligible for a vaccine by April 19.
On Friday, New Jersey reached a milestone at the Mega Site at the Moorestown Mall. That is where 200,000 doses were given on Friday alone.

Dr. John Matsinger, Virtua Hospital's executive vice president and chief operating officer, was on-hand and explained the importance of vaccination especially as we are seeing case counts rise.

"We see that it seems to be the younger population right now. Our hope is that by getting people vaccinated and still use the proper precautions, that we can clamp this down and it won't be like the first surge," he said.

New Jersey also expands eligibility on Monday, April 5, to individuals aged 55 and older, additional frontline essential workers, and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities 16 and over.

Jefferson University experts wrote a paper that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst about the increased risk of those with intellectual disabilities for contracting COVID and dying from the virus. That paper is now impacting real policy change.

About 11 states have re-prioritized the neurodiverse community in their vaccination schedules since the publication of this report. Other countries have followed suit.

Dr. Wendy Ross is the director of the Center for Autism and Neurodiversity at Jefferson University Hospital and explained that those with intellectual disabilities should have been in the first phase.

"Originally, the population with ID was not prioritized for vaccination with the exception of Down Syndrome," explained Ross. We did a study looking over 60 million people nationally at over 500 medical centers. Intellectual Disabilities are the number one risk factor for getting COVID, and second of all, it's the second biggest risk factor from dying over COVID, only above age."

Jefferson is hosting a clinic specifically for those with intellectual disabilities this weekend, and already all the slots are full.

Ross explained that the experts know key things to keep those with disabilities calm and comfortable.

"We want to make it easy and accessible for this population who so desperately need to be vaccinated to literally save their lives," said Ross.
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