PHOENIX — Arizona’s oldest residents are going to be moved up on the list of who in the state gets the first COVID-19 immunizations.
The move by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Department of Health Services comes a week after the an advisory panel of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those 75 and older should be moved into the second tier of those getting the vaccine. That puts them behind only health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.
The move is justified, Ducey said in a prepared statement.
“One of Arizona’s top priorities since the start of the pandemic has been to protect our most vulnerable,” he said.
That assessment is backed by CDC data.
As of Dec. 20, when the agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices made the recommendation, the cumulative COVID-19-associated hospitalization rate was 1,211 for every 100,000 individuals 75 and older. By contrast, the same figure for those age 65 to 74 was just 642.
Put another way, the CDC says individuals 75 and older make up 8% of the population but have 25% of hospitalizations. They also have the highest death rate of any age group.
And the agency says that, compared with individuals ages 35 through 54, those in the 65-74 age group are eight times more likely to die. Take that out to those 75 and older and the risk of death is more than 30 times higher.
The CDC says this is about more than saving lives. The agency figures that reducing the number of elderly people who have to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 “can help ease the burden on strained health-care systems.”
Until now, those 75 and older had been lumped in the third tier, the same category as those in the 65-plus age group.
Moving up this group now gives them the same priority as “essential workers.” In Arizona, that includes educators, workers in the food and agriculture industry, police, firefighters, correctional workers and those in the utility industry.