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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When states decided to open vaccine eligibility more broadly to seniors, it bumped essential workers further down the vaccine line or forced them to compete with a new flood of people for shots, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Essential workers, who are disproportionately people of color, are at higher risk of infection than people who can more easily social distance.

  • Many frontline workers will now wait longer for protection from the virus.

The other side: Older people are generally at highest risk of severe disease or death from the virus. And opening up eligibility was intended to speed up the pace of inoculations — a crucial endeavor, as new virus variants begin to circulate in the U.S.

Between the lines: The tradeoffs surrounding whether to vaccinate older Americans or essential workers first is yet another example of the tension between speed and equity.

  • "If the obsession is over the number of people vaccinated ... we could end up vaccinating more people, while leaving those people at greatest risk exposed to ongoing rates of infection," Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told the Post.
  • An advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had initially recommended vaccinating people 75 and older and frontline essential workers in the second vaccine priority group, following health care workers and nursing home residents.

Go deeper: Teachers want the vaccine, but they'll have to wait

Go deeper

Jan 31, 2021 - Health

While US hospitalizations are falling, COVID-19 variants concern experts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. this week dropped below 100,000 for the first time since December, with sharp declines happening in almost all states, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: CNN reports that while the decrease in hospitalizations is promising, experts are concerned that new variants of the virus will increase case rates to record heights if the national vaccine rollout faces challenges.

Jan 31, 2021 - Health

Infectious-disease expert: Speed up vaccinations ahead of potential COVID "hurricane"

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, urged the U.S. on Sunday to vaccinate as many people over 65 as possible ahead of a potential COVID-19 surge caused by the new strain first detected in England.

The big picture: About 1.3 million doses per day are being administered on average, per a New York Times analysis — on track with President Biden's goal to give Americans 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccines in 100 days. But the rollout in the states has been rocky.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jan 31, 2021 - World

Rich countries' pandemic preparedness failures

Reproduced from Branko Milanovic using GHS Index and Worldometer data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Some of the richest countries in the world — the ones that had been considered the best prepared to handle a pandemic — turned out to be the ones that suffered the highest death rates.

Why it matters: The SARS-CoV-2 virus has proven that preparedness needs to be global, and coordinated.