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Smoking or Non? A closer look at the COVID-19 vaccine availability list.

As the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming increasingly more available to vulnerable and essential members of our communities, there has been some dispute over who should and should not be included on the prioritized vaccine availability list.

States like Pennsylvania and Delaware have expanded the availability list to include “Persons aged 65 and older” as well as, “Persons aged 16-
64 who have at least one of the following chronic medical conditions that poses high-risk for severe COVID-19”. The list of chronic medical conditions includes cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, and various heart conditions, among others. One qualification that is included on this list of “chronic medical conditions” has sparked particular interest in my immediate circles: smoking.

The compromised health state of a habitual smoker is most definitely something state officials need to factor in when trying to allocate COVID vaccine resources, and it is evident that they have done so, as they have been included on the priority vaccine availability list.

The issue arises with the ethics of it. One of my family members who is a smoker has voiced an ethical concern regarding his access to the vaccine. He sees smoking as a choice, and though it can and often does morph into an addiction for most, it should not be considered as a reason to be prioritized for the vaccine, especially when illnesses like cancer and various other uncontrollable health conditions
are being placed on the same list. He has opted out of getting the vaccine at this point in order to ensure that the elderly, and more vulnerable population has access to the proper resources first, and is hoping to eventually get vaccinated with the rest of the general
public.

Something positive to come out of the pandemic at large is that many smokers are quitting due to the added health risks it poses as a result of the nature of the coronavirus. If this is the case, then perhaps adding smokers to the priority access vaccine list has encouraged individuals who are addicted to smoking to quit.

Most health experts will tell you to get vaccinated if you can, but ultimately the decision up to the individual. Until it becomes more readily available to the larger population, we can only hope that those most vulnerable of our society, smoking or non, are given proper access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

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