Government officials say smokers should be a priority for the nearly 732,000 doses New Jersey has received so far, as just like those suffering from other diseases, they risk getting more severe symptoms of covid-19.
“Smoking puts you at significant risk and adverse effect of covid-19,” State Health Commissioner Judith Persicili told a news conference on Wednesday.
But some public health experts have said they are struggling to make sense of the decision.
“This would not be a high-priority group,”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the changes Wednesday as the state seeks to speed up a backlog of vaccination surgery that failed to meet immunization targets. As of Thursday, at least 263,422 first doses were administered in New Jersey, covering 7.5% of the population with priority, according to The Post’s vaccine tracking.
First, the state had opened its supplies of vaccines to health workers, staff and residents of nursing homes, and later to police and firefighters. In a statement Wednesday, Murphy said medical conditions that will now be covered by enlargement include cancer, type 2 diabetes and chronic kidney disease, among others. Civil servants will not require any documentation of the recipient’s medical condition or age, Persicili said.
“Nicotine is one of the most powerful addictions,” a spokesman for the NBC New York State Health Department said in a statement. “Smoking puts people at higher risk for more serious illnesses. If a person who smokes gets COVID, he gets sick much faster. “
Some critics say smokers choose to take a higher risk and many could stay home to protect themselves – as opposed to getting vaccinated, which can go to someone at higher risk.
Nick Zaneto, a teacher and coach at Metuchen High School, told NorthJersey.com that many people at his school were shocked that the state had set a priority for smokers.
“You are not in a medical condition, you are a smoker,” Zaneto told a local newspaper. “You make a personal choice to vape or smoke cigarettes. As a teacher, we try to teach our students to stay away from bad habits like smoking, and this almost seems like a reward to these people. “
But Esther Choo, an emergency physician and professor at the University of Health and Science in Oregon, says it’s wrong to override smokers or others with substance abuse.
“There is a very steep and reprehensible slippery slope when we start saying that one or the other group does not deserve vaccines based on your healthy behavior, especially when we understand smoking as a substance abuse disorder,” Choo told The Post.
She added: “This is a nuanced and balanced solution, but I actually agree with the consideration of high-risk factors when it comes to setting vaccine priorities, and smoking is a high-risk factor.”
But Topol said many smokers did not actually have major medical problems that would put them at higher risk for covid-19 complications.
“Just as a smoker without chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, this is not considered a concomitant condition,” he said. “I do not think it deserves special priority. If they have lung disease, asthma, diabetes, that’s another matter. “