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Tri-State Area Residents Question List Of Underlying Health Conditions Prioritized For COVID Vaccine

HOBOKEN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- An immune-compromised woman from New Jersey is surprised to find she's not on the list for vaccine eligibility, and now she's wondering, how are pre-existing conditions prioritized?

Given her energy even when talking about a serious condition, you'd never know how much Hoboken resident Samantha Ferrara has struggled with Type 1 diabetes, a diagnosis she's been living with since she was 4.

"Your immune system is greatly compromised," Ferrara told CBS2's Jessica Layton.

So much that early on in the pandemic, a simple infection sent the 30-year-old to the ICU.

"It makes you think, what could happen if I were to get COVID?" she said.


So when New Jersey opened its vaccine eligibility to group 1b, which includes the immune compromised, she couldn't believe she wasn't on the list.

"It's really hard to look at a list and see ... you're not validated in your illness. Your chronic illness that you deal with day in and day out isn't enough for us," Ferrara said.

Right now, New Jersey is going by the CDC's list for underlying conditions that cause increased risk of severe illness from COVID, including cancer, heart conditions and even smoking.

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Type 1 diabetes is listed under conditions that might put someone at increased risk along with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

"Why are these conditions not on the priority list?" Layton asked Dr. Shereef Elnahal, who heads University Hospital in Newark.

"We're looking the evidence, looking at studies for conditions that specifically lead to a worse outcome if you do get COVID-19," he said. "We're learning as we go. I know the health department is taking all input and feedback that they can."


In New York, the state is still working with the CDC on which conditions fall under immunocompromised and therefore get priority.

"I would give my spot to someone who needs it more than me," said Donna Meinel, of Hartsdale, New York.

Meinel has several relatives with underlying conditions who can't register for appointments yet. She wanted to give her slot to one of them, but the health department said no.

"These people are struggling," she said. "I just think the system has to be improved."

"You have to advocate for yourself," Ferrara said.

And push to improve a process that's far from perfect.

CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.


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