Why obese people qualify for the vaccine in Tennessee

Coronavirus Vaccine

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Starting Monday, a new group of people are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Tennessee.

Phase 1c includes anyone over age 16 with high-risk health conditions like COPD, dementia, heart failure, cystic fibrosis, and obesity.

Infectious Disease Doctor at Tristar Southern Hills, Tracy Osborne, says obese people often have reduced immune function and reduced lung capacity.

“They tend to have a higher likelihood of needing to go to the critical care unit and needing higher rates of oxygen, higher risk of needing to get on a ventilator,” Dr. Osborne said.

According to Dr. Osborne, the higher the body mass index (BMI), the higher the risk.

“Thirty and above is considered obese. Forty and above is severe obesity. And one is considered overweight if you’re over twenty-five but below thirty,” Dr. Osborne said.

So, when an overweight person contracts COVID-19, Dr. Osborne says their illness often lasts longer and is more severe, which is why they qualify for Phase 1c.

TriStar bariatric surgeon, Dr. Patrick Davis, says his office is busy. Over the last year, he’s seen an influx of patients seeking advice on weight loss surgery and healthier lifestyles in an effort to avoid a more severe case of coronavirus.

“We are seeing more and more people seek out medical care now that they understand how those long-term health issues can really limit their body’s ability to fight off illness,” Dr. Davis said. “COVID certainly has affected the way that we see our health. Undoubtedly. It has forced some people, well everyone’s, medical issues to the spotlight and kind of made everyone have to deal with it or at least come to terms with it.”

But no matter what the qualifications are, both doctors are pleased to see more Tennesseans getting vaccinated.

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“No matter the criteria or not, the fact that we’re vaccinating more people is just a move for all of us in the right direction, so that hopefully we can get back to some semblance of the norm,” Dr. Davis said.

“It just means that we’re getting further along towards the end,” Dr. Osborne said.

The new phase will also make the vaccine available to caregivers of people with high-risk medical conditions and pregnant women. The table below from the Tennessee Department of Health shows all the qualifications.

TDPH: Phase 1c

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