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Homeless People, Advocates Who Work With Unhoused Populations Expected To Be Prioritized For COVID-19 Vaccination

Virus Outbreak
Jon Elswick/AP
Documents created by Pfizer for the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration advisory panel, as Pfizer seeks approval for mass use of their COVID-19 vaccine, are seen on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. The meeting of outside advisers to the Food and Drug Administration represented the next-to-last hurdle before the expected start of the biggest vaccination campaign in U.S. history. Depending on how fast the FDA signs off on the panel's recommendation, shots could begin within days. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

The prospect of who gets prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine was a topic of discussion during Florida’s statewide Council on Homelessness meeting Thursday.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has proposed prioritizing homeless populations in terms of who receives a COVID-19 vaccine first.

Jim Yates with Boston-based nonprofit the Technical Assistance Collaborative works with the federal government to direct distribution of COVID-19 resources. He wants to know where advocates who work with unhoused people fall on the priority list.

“The other piece is our direct service workers, that are working in shelters, that are working in street outreach teams – are they explicitly prioritized with other direct service workers like healthcare workers, police, fire,” Yates asked during the council’s virtual meeting.

Patricia Boswell with the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County serves on the council. She says the workers Yates mentioned will be a “priority group,” she just doesn’t know where in the pecking order they’ll fall yet.

“A lot of it is about the initial allocations and what Florida will be receiving, and as more and more vaccine becomes readily available, more and more opportunity will exist. We all agree it is about those high-risk, frontline workers you just described,” Boswell said. “We certainly do want to make sure that we’re protecting those at highest risk for infection. So, it will be a priority group, but what phase they’ll be included – I can’t tell you if that’s ‘1b’ or ‘Phase 2,’ but certainly before the general population.”

A COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Florida, starting in a handful of major hospitals, could begin as early next week.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.