(CNN)Federal guidelines recommend that smokers under the age of 65, considered high-risk for severe Covid-19 symptoms, be eligible for the vaccine in early phases of distribution, frustrating essential workers lower in the priority line.
States put smokers in line for the Covid-19 vaccine, sparking frustration among those lower in priority
New Jersey and Mississippi are currently offering the vaccine to smokers under the age of 65, and several other states have included smokers among those next in line, but haven't opened the phase yet, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
The move to prioritize smokers over essential workers like teachers has received some criticism, though the phased rollout is in line with federal guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control that place smoking on a list of conditions "that cause increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19."
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advises smokers to be vaccinated in phase 1c but ultimately states can use their discretion in how they open eligibility for the vaccine to constituents.
"While ACIP makes recommendations, we understand that there will be a level of local adaptation. The phased vaccine recommendations are meant to be fluid and not restrictive for jurisdictions. It is not necessary to vaccinate all individuals in one phase before initiating the next phase; phases may overlap," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said in a statement to CNN.
Phase 1c includes persons 65-74 years of age, persons 16-64 years of age with high-risk medical conditions, and other essential workers. Phase 1a includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents and phase 1b includes persons 75 years of age or older and non-health care frontline/essential workers.
"This means ideally hitting a sweet spot that maximizes getting vaccine into arms while also being mindful of the priority groups -- especially because these are people who are higher risk for complications from COVID-19 or are more likely to be exposed to the virus because of their jobs," Nordlund said.
Educators in New Jersey are disappointed and frustrated that they've been pushed back in line, Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride told CNN.
"From what I'm hearing, it's just another round of frustration and another round of difficulty, you know, our educators and our education support professionals have working contact with the students and with their colleagues in their school buildings," McBride said.
"The idea of having a vaccine that enables to, hopefully, give some peace of mind. And some hope, and some movement in a positive direction is valued. You know, and a much anticipated thing to happen." The New Jersey Educators Association continues to maintain the necessity of vaccine access for educators to get schools closer to a sense of normal.