Prisoners and severely obese people have been revealed to be among the first groups of people to get the coronavirus vaccine in Australia.
Because supplies are expected to be low during the initial roll out of the vaccine, the government has had to prioritise certain people.
Health and aged-care workers, the elderly and Indigenous Australians have already been flagged as the groups who will also need the jab first. However, a Health Department official has also highlighted prisoners and the severely obese as people who are high risk and will need the vaccination before the general public.
A government spokesperson has told the Sydney Morning Herald: "The priority populations are being determined by the medical experts. The advice is consistent with guidance from the World Health Organisation."
The advice to give prisoners the vaccine is based off the idea they live in close quarters with one another and an outbreak in any given facility could cause hundreds or thousands of people to become infected.
The American Medical Association has backed calls for prisoners to be in the first group of vaccinations.
AMA Board Member Ilse R. Levin wrote in a new policy that will target inmates and prison workers and admits that it might not be a popular idea but it's one that's needed fast.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen the virus spread quickly in high-density populations, particularly in correctional facilities. Because of the high risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among people who are incarcerated, and correctional and detention center workers, the AMA is advocating for increased infection control measures, additional PPE, and priority access to vaccines to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Being incarcerated or detained should not be synonymous with being left totally vulnerable to COVID-19. These steps are vital to protect people and stop the spread of the virus."
In America, obese people who have a Body Mass Index of more than 30 could also be prioritised for the vaccine because they have underlying health conditions that could make the coronavirus worse if they get infected.
Resident physician Vishal Khetpal wrote in an op-ed for Slate that it makes sense to give people who could be worse off with Covid-19 to get the jab first over healthy people.
"Obesity in COVID patients is associated with higher death rates and higher rates of hospital admissions to the ICU," he wrote.
"On balance, we know these patients tend to spend more time on ventilators than those with lower BMIs. This is in part because obesity is associated with a host of other diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, that put patients at higher risk for Covid-19."
Australia is trying to secure as many vials of each coronavirus candidate as possible and expects to be able to start vaccinating residents from early next year.
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