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Smokers skip to front of COVID-19 vaccine line

The move to prioritize smokers over essential workers, like teachers or first responders, has received some criticism.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Smoking is among the high-risk conditions bumped into Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 vaccine Phase 1A.

The expanded its vaccination Phase 1A from just healthcare personnel and those in long-term care facilities to also include people 65 and older, and people 16 to 64 who have one of a number of high-risk conditions.

The move to prioritize smokers over essential workers, like teachers or first responders, has received some criticism.

Public health experts, however, asserted vaccine prioritization is a matter of risk, not a judgement of personal choices.

The CDC lists smoking as a higher risk for COVID-19, along with other underlying conditions like obesity.

Smoking in particular causes inflammation of the lungs.

“Basically you’re having individuals who already have inflammation now having superimposed inflammation from the infection,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer at the American Lung Association. “They’ve seen over the course of the past year, smokers continue to be at risk of developing severe complications.”

Unlike some other conditions, there’s no standard way to prove someone is a smoker in order to qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Most vaccine distributors will therefore have to rely on the trust system, Rizzo said.

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