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Delaware targets age, health risks in new vaccination plan

Katie Tabeling

Earlier this month, the state tested mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics to reach homebound Delaware residents. The state has recently announced major changes in its vaccination plans. } PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES.

Delaware’s COVID-19 vaccination plan is moving away from a phased approach and will be focused on age and medical conditions, state officials announced Tuesday.

Effective March 17, pharmacies across the state will be vaccinating Delawareans ages 50 and older. Health care providers and hospitals may also start vaccinating people 16 years and older with high and moderate risk medical conditions.

On March 23, the state will open its COVID-19 vaccination waiting list at vaccinerequest.delaware.gov to any ​Delawarean 50 years old or older. After registering, they were added to the state’s list and eventually offered an opportunity to get the vaccine at a mass event at the Dover International Speedway, DMVs, and Delaware Technical Community College campuses throughout the state.

“This is our way to accelerate our vaccination efforts to get more shots in arms more quickly as supply increases,” Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said during the Tuesday press conference. “About 67% of our seniors have received one dose of the vaccine, and one thing we are certainly seeing is a lot less individuals on the [state vaccine] waitlist sign up for an appointment. We’re really excited to accelerate our efforts as demands decrease from our seniors.”

The announcement marks a significant shift in state policy as the state developed its vaccination game plan in December. Since then, the state has been operating on a phased approach, where residents were divided into categories based on exposure risk to COVID-19 due to employment, age, and whether they were part of a workforce “essential” to keep the economy running and other factors. 

Until this week, Delaware was in phase 1B, or a pool of essential workers and people 65 and older, and reports suggested the next phase wouldn’t begin until April. The state reports that 124,191 residents are fully vaccinated, and that number may be higher due to data reporting delays. One in five Delawareans has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Delaware officials report that 74,00 seniors have been fully vaccinated – meaning they received two shots of Pfizer or Moderna and two weeks have passed – and 49,000 people under the age of 65 have been fully vaccinated.

For those who are 16 and older:

Medical conditions that qualify people for the vaccine as of March 17 include:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Down Syndrome
  • Serious Heart Conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m or higher)
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Current or Former Cigarette Smoker
  • Intellectual or Developmental Disability
  • Severe and Persistent Mental/Behavioral Health Condition
  • Pregnancy
  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)

Health care providers and hospital systems will be administering the vaccine to this group, as state officials said they do not have the resources or ability to determine those health conditions.

For those 65 and older:

Although state officials say that seniors on Delaware’s vaccine waiting list have been offered appointments, those who are on the list still will be offered an appointment within the upcoming weeks.  Those seniors still looking for an appointment should visit vaccinerequest.delaware.gov.

That list may get more congested as the state will open it up to 50 and older residents on March 23.

For those 50 and older:

Pharmacies will start taking vaccine appointments for Delawareans 50 and older as of March 17. Appointments will be required. The state’s vaccine waiting list will be opened to this demographic on March 23.

For essential workers:

Delaware officials are still working with those previously deemed essential in Phase 1B, creating events with vaccine appointments made available to employees in that category by their employer. Business leaders should email vaccineplanning@delaware.gov to develop vaccination plans for their employees.

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