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Smokers prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine, here's why

The CDC puts smokers with the groups who are at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Cigarette smokers are one of the priority groups to get vaccinated.

“It’s not a big surprise actually because smoking is certainly associated with other chronic diseases like heart disease and lung disease and so on," said Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, executive vice president and chief physician executive for Baptist Health. 

Dr. Ransom explained a study that was done in the Journal of American Medical Association. 

“That confirmed people who are smokers or who have been previously smokers have a more severe course of covid-19 and are more likely to be hospitalized and become severely ill," said Dr. Ransom. 

Trish Lind, tobacco program manager for northeast Florida AHEC works with smokers daily and hopes people would understand the side effects of being a smoker.

“Nicotine that’s in tobacco is the number one most addictive chemical of all drugs so we don’t want to separate people saying well you have a choice of smoking or not smoking," said Lind. 

Lind says smoking is hard to quit which is why Northeast Florida AHEC provides virtual classes to put an end to smoking habits.

You can click here if interested in joining the program.

“We have a tools equipped program and it’s a curriculum to help people set a plan to quit and quit successfully and by attending the class they can receive four weeks of nicotine patches to help them," said Lind. 

Dr. Chirag Patel, assistant chief medical officer at UF Health Jacksonville says while these individuals may be higher up on the priority list than the general population because they’re at a higher risk for more serious infection.

“Just like we wouldn’t want to discount any other medical conditions. I would just advise caution before people rush to judgement that a smoker is giving priority," said Dr. Patel.