Covid-19 superspreaders, young people should get vaccine after healthcare workers to protect elderly: Experts
The approach, according to the experts, will shield the elderly and the vulnerable population from the infection
As some Covid-19 vaccines enter the final stage of testing, researches are debating on who should get the first access to a safe and effective vaccine. Recently, a group of experts argued that superspreaders and young people -- the main drivers of the disease -- should receive shots after healthcare workers. The approach, according to them, will shield the elderly and the vulnerable population from the infection.
Earlier, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine drafted early recommendations for Covid-19 vaccine allocation at the request of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and National Institue of Health (NIH). According to their plan, the first phase of allotment should cover high-risk healthcare workers, first responders, individuals with underlying health conditions, and older adults in crowded housing such as nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. Young adults and children are included in phase 3 rollout. The model is not final yet.
But experts from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California think the plan has some problems. "Having seen firsthand the real risks of rapid, asymptomatic spread of Covid-19 among younger adults, we disagree with some of the recommendations," they wrote in The Conversation. "Asymptomatic spread is shutting down schools and universities nationwide and threatening surrounding communities," they added.
"We argue that this pandemic requires a different model for making vaccination choices," Dr Dana Goldman from the University of Southern California, Dr David Conti from the University of Southern California, and Dr Matthew E Kahn from Johns Hopkins University explained in their post. "After taking care of essential workers, vaccinations should be given to the biggest transmitters of the virus – mostly the young – and only then to the most vulnerable."
One recent study found that individuals under 22 could be more involved in the community spread of the disease than previously thought. In other words, they might be "silent spreaders." The levels of the new coronavirus [viral load] found in children were higher than those detected in hospitalized adults.
The CDC estimated that 40% of the people with Covid-19 do not show symptoms. Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that asymptomatic people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s could be driving the spread of the disease without realizing they are infected. Another study on superspreaders found that 10% of those infected are responsible for 80 of the cases. "Very few of the Covid-19 superspreaders are elderly. It is the younger people who have a much greater propensity to resume social lives at schools and in other venues," they explained.
The policy of vaccinating the elderly first is not new. It has been implemented since the 1957-1958 influenza pandemic. The experts from Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California quoted studies showing that vaccinating the young early, including school children, is a better way to protect older people. "One of the lessons from these past pandemics is that vaccinating the likely asymptomatic spreaders early can avert multiple infections with others," they wrote. "We predict the pressures and politics around prioritizing vaccine distribution will be intense. We argue that the key will be to take the most beneficial route, not the most obvious one."